Thursday, August 27, 2020

Monthly Musings: Back To School

I'm linking up with Holly and Patty for their Monthly Musings. This month it's all about Back To School and, since this year looks different than any other year, I wanted to document it.


1) Do you have kids going back to school and what does that look like? What is your plan?

In our province families have the option to send their kids back to school in person five days a week or to learn virtually. About 80% of the families in our board have chosen in person learning and we are among that group. Earlier this week, our board announced that the first two weeks of school will be a staggered start with the kids attending every other day and off on the other days (no virtual learning). By September 18th, all in-school attendees will be back full-time.

Our kids will be wearing masks and in a cohort with their class. We have no idea who their teachers will be (we might find out Labour Day weekend) or who will be in their class. Rachel is going into Grade 4 and Sam will be in Grade 6, which is the last year of elementary school here. Next year he will transition to a middle school for two years before attending another school for high school.

2) Do you have any current back to school traditions?

The only back to school traditions we have is that both Dave and I walk the kids to school on the first day and we take a first day picture with the sign. The sign tradition is so important to my kids that they made a sign for me on my first day of work with the school board!!!

first day of school last year

my first day of work sign

3) Did you have any back to school traditions growing up?

I think the only back to school tradition we had was to get a new outfit. I also remember shopping for school supplies and new lunchboxes but those were more necessities than traditions!

4) New lunchbox? New backpack? Both?

I bought our kids backpacks from LL Bean when they started JK (Junior Kindergarten) and they have held up so well, we haven't had to buy new ones! Dave's aunt and uncle gave Sam an Under Armor backpack last year and he transitioned to using that one.

Both kids are still carrying the same lunch bag we bought them for JK. Since we have two nutrition breaks, their lunch bags are divided in two so they eat the food from one side during break one and the second side in break two. I don't like acquiring things or spending money unnecessarily so our kids are stuck with these bags for as long as they'll hold up!

5) Any special back to school meals?

We don't have any special meals but I try to keep the menu plan for the first week of school filled with easy to make meals which I know the kids love -- tacos, tuna noodle casserole, grilled cheese & tomato soup -- I don't want to worry about making an elaborate meal, or making something the kids don't like, during that first week.

I also always try to have muffins on hand as they are easy to stick in a lunch box or make a good after school snack.

6) What are the back to school outfits?

We always buy something new for back to school. This year each kid got a shirt. If it's not too hot, both kids will wear their shirts on the first day. 

Sam is excited to coordinate his new shirt with his shark mask and Rachel has her whole first day outfit picked out, including how she wants her hair done. Her shirt says, "Stay true to you."

7) Especially this year, how will you stay organized and get into a routine?

During the school year, I work really hard at picking out the kids' clothes for the week with them on Sundays. We also work on making school lunches the night before. Since I am likely working outside the house this fall, for the first time in many years, it will be even more important to make sure we are ready to go for the week. (My job has been on hold while the schools are closed, but you can read more about it here. I am a substitute secretary/librarian for the school board which is an on-call, as needed position.) I know that I will need to make it a priority to get grocery shopping and laundry done on the weekends in case I end up working five days a week.

And we've already dropped the hammer on trying to get into better routines with moving bedtime earlier and getting up earlier. So we'll need to be consistent on that. I'm also really working on trying to get the house organized and cleaned so that we won't have to worry about that (too much) in September :)

8) Do you have any end of summer plans?

We don't have any big plans. Since we flew to visit my parents, although a two week self-isolation isn't required for our province, we've been lying pretty low and not doing much these past few weeks. Next week the kids will be with Dave's parents for two days and then we have appointments the other three days. Does that count as "end of summer plans"?!?!

9) What are you and your kids looking forward to this school year?

I am looking forward to getting back to work, and for the kids to be able to see their friends in person again. We're going to embrace that normalcy while we have it knowing that we may have to switch to virtual learning at some point due to a rise in cases, or even potentially one case in the kids' class or school.

Sam is looking forward to the fact that school is actually happening in person for now and the fact that he is in Grade 6, the oldest kids in the school! Rachel is looking forward to seeing her friends in person again.

10) Do you give teacher gifts?

It is not a tradition in our province (in Canada?) to give teacher gifts at the beginning of the school year. In December we might give a gift (I think we didn't last year but did the year before), but we always try to do something at the end of the school year. We always give a donation in honour of the teacher rather than a particular gift for the teacher. We have given school kits for kids overseas (which you can read more about here) and donations towards building schools overseas (through this organization here).

This year a good friend of mine started a project to diversify the Little Free Libraries in our area. She was inspired by Sarah Kamya, a school counselor in the States. (You can read more about Sarah's US project here and more about our local project here.) So we looked at the registry for our local project and each kid chose a couple of books which reminded them of their teachers. Then we sent their teachers an e-mail explaining what we had done, which books we had chosen, and the kids explained why they picked those particular books.

We always include a picture of the kids with their school kits in the cards for the teachers.
Sam and Rachel got to stock the little libraries with the books they donated in honour of their teachers. I've sent the teachers these pictures.
So these are my thoughts on school as we anticipate this significantly different 2020-2021 school year. I look forward to reading the posts of those of you who have linked up with Holly and Patty. Let's do this!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

What's Up Wednesday: August 2020

Welcome to What's Up Wednesday for August. I'm linking up with Shay at Mix and Match Mama and Sheaffer at Sheaffer Told Me To to talk about what we've been up to lately.

image from here

What we're eating this week... I usually have a couple of packages of Mr Noodles on hand to make an easy Napa cabbage salad that our family loves. Well Sam recently discovered that Mr Noodles can be made into soup and so we've been eating a lot of that lately, especially Sam. It's also the time of year when some of my favourite produce is in season -- peaches and tomatoes. We're getting a ton of tomatoes from our CSA and I bought a basket of peaches at our pool's produce stand last week.

I'm starting to get excited though because it's almost time for back to school muffin baking! Yum!!!

What I'm reminiscing about... Seven years ago this week, we moved into our house. It is the first house Dave and I bought and we've loved it. I re-read all my moving blog posts last week and it was so fun to remember those times. You can check out the first of the new house posts here if you're interested. Sam was four when we moved and Rachel had just turned two.
What I'm loving... Last week we went for a couple of walks to check out some local art. A factory near our house was torn down and something new is being constructed. The developers put up a nice fence and provided the supplies so that anyone from the neighbourhood could paint something to display.

Additionally, some local artists were invited to paint some buildings' back doors in our uptown. Normally this would be an overlooked alley but now it's brightened up with some new artwork. I wrote a blog post about these two outdoor art installations which you can check out here, if you're interested.
What we've been up to... We've been swimming, playing games, reading books, checking out art, eating at food trucks and local ice cream places, and trying to get some yard work done. It hasn't been too exciting around here :)

What I'm dreading... Early mornings. I'm so ready for the kids to get back to school and for me to get back to work but could everything just start at 10am every day please? We're a little too used to sleeping in and our slow mornings around here and that's all about to change.

What I'm working on... I'm getting ready for our fall routine to hit. I really want to try and get the kids' rooms in order, including their clothes. We've let things slide a little bit this summer and that needs to stop...

What I'm excited about... Last week we received an email from our local baseball association that they're running a fall baseball program so we signed Sam up. He didn't get to play this summer and I'm excited he'll get a chance to play again this fall. It's only six weeks so it's not a very long commitment either.

What I'm watching/reading... We haven't been watching much of anything around here. Sadly, the Blue Jays have been chased off TV by the Stanley Cup playoffs so we aren't even watching baseball these days. Boo.

As for what I'm reading, I'm just trying to work my way through all my library books. The best two books I've read lately were Family For Beginners by Sarah Morgan and Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer. Both of these books made me cry.

Also, last week I picked up a Sweet Dreams book from a Little Free Library. Then I went and dug out my stash of Sweet Dreams books so I've been reading those lately too! Hahahaha!!! Do any of you remember reading that series (likely as a pre-teen or teenager in the 80s!)?
What I'm listening to... Blue Jays games on the radio. If we can't watch them, then we'll listen to them. I've been writing this blog post, as I paint my toenails, and listen to the Blue Jays play the Rays. It's pretty much been a perfect afternoon :)
What I'm wearing...  New shoes -- my mom gave me a pair of Sketchers Go Walk which didn't fit her so I'm enjoying trying them out. I've also been wearing a fun pair of knockoff Toms which I bought at Ardene.
What I'm doing this weekend... I don't know... We'll go swimming, maybe visit some friends in their backyard, maybe some house organizing -- we don't have any big plans which is nice.

What I'm looking forward to next month... There's a lot to look forward to next month. The kids are going back to school in person, I'll be able to get back to work, Sam will have baseball and in person dance is starting up for Rachel. There's a lot to look forward to!

Watching the kids do their thing last year.

What else is new... Yesterday our local school board announced that our kids will have a staggered start for back to school. School begins in two weeks and, for the first two weeks, kids will only be going every other day to learn about the new "physical distancing practices and Covid prevention routines" at school. I'm glad we have the opportunity to go back in person (or to attend virtually) in our province and I'm really looking forward to the fourth week in September when (hopefully) our kids will just be back at school every day.

Monday, August 24, 2020

An Arty Neighbourhood

Last week we went and checked out some outdoor art in our neighbourhood. The first art installation is about a ten minute walk away from our house. An old factory was finally sold and the developers put up a beautiful wooden fence and invited art from the neighbourhood. The developers provided the wood and the paint and members of our community provided the artwork.

We first checked this installation out in July and there were only a few pieces done. Last week we went back and there had been more added. I can't wait to see all of the pieces once they're installed. I have shared some of my favourites below.

This piece is partially a mosaic (the tree on the left) and the rest is painted. This picture also shows how big the pieces are compared to Rachel. I think they're all 4 feet by 8 feet.


This piece reminds me of a Monet piece. I love impressionist artwork.


This piece reminds me of the stained glass chalk art that a lot of people were doing with their kids at the beginning of the Covid pandemic.

I really like this piece which shows the factory which used to be here.
On Friday, our local uptown Instagram account posted about some artwork which had been added to the back doors of a particular alley. So we went to a local ice cream shop and then walked down the alley to check out the new art.
I love the moose on these garage doors!
I love the orange and pink door. Something about the shapes, and the way they're painted, really appeals to me.
These two pieces of art, along with a few others, are on the side of a parking garage in our uptown. I just love all the emphasis on adding some beautiful art to otherwise boring spaces.
I also like having an excuse to take a walk and check out some of these interesting and unique installations.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Top Three: Saskatchewan Edition

I thought I would do a post about what each of us picked as our "Top Three Favourite Saskatchewan Moments/Things" to wrap up our holiday. Before I do that though, I wanted to add that, while we weren't too sure about flying during a pandemic, making this trip was absolutely the right decision. It was so good to spend time with my mom and dad and we all enjoyed being together.

Rachel's top three

1 Seeing Oma and Opa

2 Mowing the lawn with Opa.

3 Watching ET. We watched ET one rainy afternoon and, when she wasn't freaked out, Rachel loved it!

Sam's Top Three

1 Seeing Oma and Opa

2 Driving the truck. My dad has decided that each kid should learn to drive at age 10 so Sam got his first driving experience last summer. He enjoyed a few more days of driving (in the fields only) this year.

3 Yummy food, especially BACON!!! Opa and Oma might have bought five pounds of bacon for two weeks. We might have eaten most of it :)

 Natasha's Top Three

1 Time with Mom and Dad

2 Happy Drinks!

3 Enjoying Mom's flowers and watching the hummingbirds.


If you look closely, you can see a hummingbird about to land on the feeder in the picture on the left. There might be a hummingbird in the picture on the right, but I can't tell for sure!

Dave's Top Three

1 Excellent meals

 2 Visiting on the deck with happy drinks.

3 Enjoying weiner roasts and sleeping in the tent.

And that wraps up our time in Saskatchewan. We so enjoyed being with Mom and Dad and it was a truly relaxing vacation, which was perfect.