Wednesday, February 26, 2020

What's Up Wednesday: February 2020

Welcome to What's Up Wednesday for February. Read on to discover what we've been up to this month.
image from here

What we're eating this week... Pancakes! Last night we had a pancake supper at church for the Sr Youth and their families. Because I'm a sponsor, we got to enjoy it too. Yum!!!

What I'm reminiscing about... Ummmm, I don't really know. I'm almost done the blog recaps from our Disney Cruise in January and I'm not so much reminiscing about that as I am dreaming about our next one :) Does that count? If you want to read about our cruise, you can click here. In a nutshell, we cruised out of San Juan, Puerto Rico and went to Antigua, Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. And best of all, my parents joined us!

What I'm loving... My new(ish) job, despite some of the current political struggles. I wrote a (very long) post about it yesterday which you can read here if you're interested.

What we've been up to... On Saturday night we joined in on the Coldest Night of the Year walk to raise money to help homeless people in our city. We were going to only walk 5km but we ended up walking about 7. It was a warm-ish evening out and once we got started, we just couldn't stop! Ha!

What I'm dreading... We're supposed to get a big snowstorm this afternoon and continuing into this evening. It could bring anywhere between 10 and 25 (!!!) centimetres of snow. That's between 4 and TEN inches. I'm really hoping for 10 cm or less because where would we put 25 cm of snow?!?!?!?
 Our back and front yards currently. They're already pretty snow covered...

What I'm working on... I should have all our (very belated) holiday cards sent out by Friday so that's the main thing I've been working on. A few things conspired against us getting them out in a timely fashion this year. Ugh. Thankfully they say "Happy Holidays" so they'll be relevant for St Patrick's Day or the first day of Spring, depending on when people get them! Hahaha!!!

What I'm excited about... I finally got my library training for work. I worked my first library shift last week and will work another one at the same school tomorrow. Due to various issues, it took two months for me to get this training so I'm so happy it's done and I can take library jobs now!

Oh, and did you know baseball started on Saturday?!?!? Yes, we're in the midst of Spring Training games right now and I love it!!! Only four weeks and one day until Opening Day!!!
What I'm watching/reading... I'm watching our calendar, hoping and praying for a night at home. It doesn't look like we're going to get one anytime soon. Ugh.

As for reading, I've been working my way through The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. This book is so good and I'm definitely learning a lot about racism and how the prison/court system works in the US. Every time I read a book like this I think I need to find one written within the Canadian context because I know we have our own problems.

What I'm listening to... Blue Jays spring training baseball is on the radio! It's the most wonderful time of the year! I was seriously giddy on Saturday when I heard the words, "We now return you to Blue Jays Baseball on the Sportsnet Radio Network."
This was Sam and me on Saturday as we listened to the first game of the year!
Whooooo hooooo!!!

What I'm wearing... I bought some new work pants this past weekend (and a spring-like top) so I'm excited to be wearing them.
On the left is the outfit I wore (minus the slippers) on my first day as a librarian! On the right are one of my new pairs of pants and the top I bought.

What I'm doing this weekend... I'm hoping to bake buns, we're going to our neighbourhood potluck and trivia night, I might be going to a clothes swap on Friday night, and I have book club on Sunday. Plus there's church and synagogue and some extra dance in there too. Oh, and listening to baseball of course! (PS. Edited to add: Dave read my post and said, "Wow! We have a lot up this weekend." Ha!)

What I'm looking forward to next month... I'm looking forward to not having to work while the kids are on March Break. This will be the first time in five years that I won't be trying to get work done while the kids are home. Yay!

Oh, I'm also looking forward to Canstruction. You can read more about it here, but it's a fundraiser for local food banks but also an engineering marvel. Our family loves this event! If there is one near you, I highly recommend you check it out. You can read more about our experiences with it here: 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2019.
Just a small taste of the amazingness that is Canstruction!

What else is new... The biggest thing going on in our lives right now are the rotating teacher's strikes and how they affect the kids' school attendance and my job. I wrote a post about it yesterday so if you didn't read it earlier, you can read it here. Fun times. I just hope and pray there is a resolution soon.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

An Update On Work (And School And Politics And Life)

I'm interrupting my cruise recaps to give you all a work update. I've mentioned a couple of times that things have not gone as anticipated so "here's the scoop" on all things work! And how my work, and our entire life, is being impacted by politics. Doesn't that sound interesting?! Also, grab a cup of your favourite beverage because this is a looooong post :) Or you know, skip this post completely and come back tomorrow!

I mentioned the whole process leading up to getting this job in this post here. And I wrote that I am a substitute secretary and that I was receiving the librarian training "the next week" (ie. back in December). Welllll...

I don't know much you all follow Canadian politics, and particularly the politics of the province I live in (Ontario) but we are in the middle of the biggest teacher job action since 1997. Our government is wanting to make some major changes to education and the teachers (and from what I understand, the majority of parents) don't agree with these changes AT ALL.

The basic changes include threatening to end full day kindergarten, really cutting extra support for students with any kind of learning issues (including emotional behaviours), increasing class sizes (especially in high school), and mandating four e-learning courses for each high school student. The proposed cuts affect everyone from Junior Kindergarten kids to high school seniors.
Thus, the high school teachers union has been having rotating one day strikes across the province since December and the elementary teachers have been increasing job action since November. Our kids have had field trips and extracurricular activities cancelled, they haven't gotten report cards, and teachers are not spending any extra time at school. And for a few weeks in February the elementary teachers were striking two days a week.

Our elementary schools have been hit particularly hard because the secretaries/librarians/custodians and other supervision workers in our board are also a part of the high school teacher's union. So when that union goes on strike, our elementary schools are closed because it isn't safe for the kids to be there without those extra staff and supports in place. Oh, and did I mention that I'm a part of that union, so then I also have to go picket?
This means that Sam and Rachel have only been going to school two to three days a week for all of February. Thanks to our vacation, this week is the first time since the first week of January that our kids will have to go to school all five days. Yes, you read that correctly :)

As you can imagine, this has had a HUGE impact on my job.

It means that the library training scheduled for December was cancelled. It was rescheduled for January during our cruise (which I was so disappointed about), so I signed up for the first available training in February. During the time between when I signed up and the January trainings, the union decided that no trainings could be held for current staff, only for new hires. So the January trainings were cancelled and the February training was closed. But I was still signed up... And because of that loophole (I signed up before the union made the "no new training declaration"), I was able to take the training along with nine new hires.

There are about two - three library positions available every single day and there are only ten new people to fill them. So a lot of them aren't getting filled. And there are about thirty people (that I know of) who are desperate for library training who can't get it. It makes me sad.

I had my first library shift last Thursday at an elementary school and it was really fun. I am going back to that school this week and I have three days in the library booked at another school in another few weeks. I am really looking forward to all the library work!
In terms of secretary work, there have only been about three days since I was trained when I wanted to work when I haven't been able to pick up a job. I was NOT expecting that. I figured I would get between one and three days of work a week. This week I am working all five days. I have worked as the only secretary at an elementary school (I think these are my favourite days), I have been the second secretary at both elementary (JK - Gr 6), middle schools (Gr 7 & 8) and one high school (where I was only responsible for the attendance for last names A through L).

I enjoy the chance to work with a head secretary at an elementary or middle school because every single one I have run into has been so supportive, willing to show me new things, and some have even passed my name on to other secretaries as a substitute. In fact, the two days I worked with a secretary at a middle school opened up the door to some new opportunities.

She passed my name on to a few secretaries who were looking for someone to take "temporary permanent" hours. These are hours which are consistent (same school, same time, every week) from now until the end of the current school year in June. After talking with a few principals, talking it over with Dave, and thinking about some options, I picked up four hours one morning a week at a school. This allows me to know my schedule one day a week from now until the end of June which I love.

Unfortunately, this also means that if the elementary teachers are on strike on that one particular day, I still have to go to work for those hours. And my main job during those hours is to do the attendance, which doesn't leave me anything to do when the kids aren't there :)

Between all the strikes and the way the other hours have been spread out, I haven't accepted any other "temporary permanent" hours. I don't want to have to work three hours a day (and have to find childcare) when there are no kids at school. Once this job action is done, I will be thinking quite differently about taking on more of these kinds of hours.

One elementary teacher strike day, I took a high school job, but other than that I have been able to be home with the kids. Unless of course, my union is on strike and then I've been going out to picket, which is a whole different blog post :)

So this is a small taste of how our February has been going -- working, figuring out childcare, striking, and trying to determine how the rest of life fits in there. Thankfully Dave's work has been very flexible if he needs to work from home if I need to work or picket on a strike day. After all, half the people on his team have been affected by their kids not being in school.

I had a conversation with Sam and Rachel about why these strikes are happening and why Dave and I agree with the teachers that this is important. So one strike day we baked cookies to take to their teachers on the picket line. We baked about seventy cookies and there were gone in about twenty minutes. Sam commented, "Next time we need to make a double batch!" And Rachel made a sign and asked her teacher if she could picket with them for a bit. I think her teacher felt so supported seeing her out there. (That's where the picture from above is from.)

I'm getting a little (even more?) political here, but the government keeps trying to make out that this is all about the teacher's' salaries. Being a secretary, especially, gives me a whole new view as to what happens in a school every day, how many behavioural and learning issues there are, and how hard every single staff person (teachers and non-teachers) work to try and support every kid, no matter what, even as more and more support is being taken away.
Last Friday there was historic job action in our province and all four teachers' unions walked off the job. Our city had a big gathering in one of the public squares and the estimate is that 10,000 people showed up. I feel so honoured to be a part of these kinds of gatherings with so many people out there fighting for our kids. I asked this teacher if I could take a picture of her sign, because to me, it speaks to the larger issues. This is about more than money.

So that's my work update for now -- thanks to this current time, it looks a lot different than what I anticipated. This means that once an agreement is in place, my job prospects, and thoughts as to my job future, will, once again, look different, so look for another update in the coming months...

Monday, February 24, 2020

Disney Cruise: Cheers To Curaçao (And Pirates)

Out last port day was in Curaçao. There were parts of Curaçao I loved and parts I was less than thrilled with.
I loved getting to see more flamingos in the wild. This was an unexpected treat.
Our taxi driver, whom I loved getting to speak a little bit of Dutch with, promised us that Kokomo beach was amazing. Honestly, I was mostly excited to visit it because of the song. After the beautiful beach we were at in Aruba though, this one was very disappointing.

The bottom was very rocky so it hurt to walk on (Dave stubbed his toes twice on the rocks), there wasn't any sand to play in, and what little sand there was was covered in beach chairs. Which you couldn't use unless you paid to rent them. Also, the water got quite deep quite quickly, so the kids couldn't even swim in it very well. It was a very sad beach experience and we were glad we didn't stay there for very long.
We got back on the ship for lunch and Sam headed to Edge. Dave and I wanted to head back into the town, and we wanted to drop Rachel off at club for the afternoon. However, Rachel desperately wanted her hair braided so we said she could come with us as long as she was okay to walk all over town after her hair got braided with no complaining. Dave and I were skeptical that she could do this but she promised she would be happy.
I loved the colourful houses of Willemstad. It felt like being in The Netherlands but in tropical heat. It was so weird but awesome too!
We found someone to braid Rachel's hair and she was in heaven! You can probably tell from her smile :)
Then we walked across the historic pontoon bridge. It was built in 1888 and has been renovated a few times since then. It connects the two sides of Willemstad with each other and swings open to allow large ships to leave the harbour. It is a pedestrian bridge only.
I couldn't leave Curaçao without having a drink with Blue Curaçao -- the famous liqueur. I was happy that the drink of the day was only $5. It was delicious.
Well I was enjoying my drink by the water, we got to see the pontoon bridge swing open to allow a large ship to pass through.
This little ferry boat runs people back and forth across the water when the bridge is open. Sometimes the bridge remains open for up to an hour.
Yes, that is the bridge moving back into position. I was fascinated by this process.
After we got to see the bridge open and close we walked around Willemstad for a bit.
Rachel loved checking out the huge wooden shoe and I loved shopping in the Delft store. This was where I bought my mug for this trip :)
Yes, it's another picture of Rachel with the ship :) She was so well behaved this whole afternoon and never complained. Dave and I really enjoyed this one-on-one time with her.
The night we left Curaçao was pirate night. We dressed up and I sent Rachel to my mom and dad's stateroom so Oma could give Rachel a piratical makeup look. When I saw how awesome Rachel's was, I asked my mom to do mine. (Yep, I wore makeup which NEVER happens.)

Then my dad got in on the act, remembering how he loved to paint our faces for Hallowe'en costumes. He made me a skull and crossbones and Sam got a scar, a sword dripping blood, and an anchor. It was so fun!
Then the kids and I went up on deck to watch our ship leave Curaçao. Farewell beautiful island!
Rachel wanted to see what would happen if she visited Bibbid-Bobbidi-Boutique. You can sort of see the "mermaid snot" (glitter gel) on her cheek.
Our family of fierce pirates.
I was disappointed that the sunset was always during our dining time so this night I snuck away from dinner for a bit to capture these shots. It was totally worth it.
I don't know what was going on here but clearly the kids were having fun with Opa!
I had heard this might happen on your cruise if you were lucky and we were so happy it did. Our stateroom host put character sheets on the kids' beds about halfway through our cruise. Rachel was thrilled with her Moana sheets and Sam got the Avengers.
That night was the Pirate Deck Party! It was crazy and so much fun!!! You can see Rachel partying with her cruise BFF on the bottom left of the picture on the right.
And the fireworks off the side of the ship were amazing!!! This really is such a fun, magical night.
The fireworks ended about 10:30 and then we hit one of the restaurants for the pirate buffet. The kids and Dave had tacos and crepes and I just had crepes. I so wish I had a picture of us eating amazing crepes at 11:00 at night. Insanity I tell you!!! But when you're a pirate on a Disney Cruise, anything can happen :)

*You can read about our last day here.