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We never got to Jamaica & other updates

We never got to Jamaica & other updates

I realize that I posted a life update on September 21st, 2021 and haven’t followed up since. My goal to be a better blogger has not come to fruition. Besides, all the kids are on tiktok these days and I am going in the opposite direction and staying off of most social media. Here is a synopsis of the past year or so:

We ended up going to Puerto Rico: the direct flight we had booked to Jamaica changed so many times that it ended up becoming an over 24 hour flight with various stops. We discussed it with our friends and made the decision to pull the plug and instead planned a trip to Puerto Rico. Both families have been there before and we found a nice hotel on the southwest coast far from the maddening crowds. Covid made travel an absolute nightmare but we have stories for days and isn’t that what travel is all about?

Mr. Tucker started a new job: he heads up a new team now and with this new job came a small pay raise. So once again we have reversed course and are in super saver mode except the new raise covers our increases in spending money and groceries. That’s good because inflation has made it more expensive anyway.

We are still on track to pay off our mortgage in 2023: this is very exciting because we did manage to make our prepayment this year. It was looking dicey there for awhile because Mr. Tucker needed major dental surgery and…

We put in a walk-in bathtub: it was getting more and more dangerous for me to use a step-over tub and a bath chair so we bit the bullet and had a walk-in installed. It was incredibly expensive but we managed to not go into debt to do it.

We did more weekend roadtrips & didn’t rent a cottage: I have to be honest, I love staying home all summer. We bought a house with a pool for a reason and that reason is that I spend every great summer day swimming. Besides, we got to see a lot of friends for backyard hangouts.

We had a good run camping or renting cottages with friends when our kids were younger, it was more for the kids to run around with their friends than for us to enjoy. Now that they are older, they don’t enjoy it as much themselves. So it made sense to put this particular tradition to rest.

We did manage to get use out of our Canada’s Wonderland passes though! We went May 24 long weekend and Thanksgiving weekend – where we also went to Medieval Times. Is it absolutely cheesy? Yes. Did we all love it? Also, yes. We won’t renew them again as the deal isn’t as good as the pandemic restrictions let up but I am glad we did it. We still do have amazing plans for next year’s roadtrip.

I did rent a cottage in Prince Edward County with my friends from book club and had a wonderful weekend. Instead of booking an expensive wine tour a friend drove us to various wineries and it made for a fun, inexpensive weekend.

We had more local outings during the holidays: we did a lot more holiday-themed local events both last year and this year. During Halloween we went to various local farms to experience their haunted houses and we did a local Haunted Walk with friends as well. For Christmas last year we did a drive-thru light show and saw The Nutcracker. Of course, we kept up with our two traditions: October’s 13 Days of Halloween Movies and 12 Days of Christmas Movies in December. We had planned a small Winter Solstice event but was thwarted by Omicron.

We’re still gardening: we haven’t got better at it though. Still, it’s a fun hobby and I enjoy watching the garden change over the summer.

Health: I had a particularly awful fall in the late spring which took a long time to heal & made me make the decision to not paddle with my dragon boat team this year. I also have not kept up with a regular exercise routine outside of swimming in the summer. This is something I need to refocus on. I lost a lot of confidence with the fall but conversely I have added supplements to my routine that have reduced my spasticity & made my skin issues more manageable.

As 2022 comes to an end Mr. Tucker and I are working on some big goals to tackle in 2023. I feel like this deserves its own post, which I will tackle closer to the end of the month. Until then, we are gearing up to enjoy yet another Christmas season as a family and will hopefully be able to have a small Winter Solstice celebration with friends.

It’s been a hot minute – what I am up to

It’s been a hot minute – what I am up to

WELP. The idea of writing consistently here this year as a New Year’s resolution didn’t happen. Still, I’ve not really spent a lot of time on social media this year and I have definitely kicked my facebook habit (and replaced about 50% of it with an Instagram habit – oops!). Of course, the pandemic is still out there pandemicking but the kids are back in school so that is nice. We had a great summer of outdoor socially distanced hangouts, and now we are settling in to have a lovely autumn full of fun fall activities. But first, maybe a roundup of what has happened in the past 6 months since I last wrote:

Cottaging on Manitoulin island: we have probably shut the door on camping/cottaging with the two other families. Since Sprout was 2, we’ve either Glamped in Quebec parks or we’ve rented cottages. This year we had a lovely week in Dominion Bay where the kids could run around, play games and go for long walks. My friend S did her yearly craft camp for the kids & there was woodburning, leaf painting & other projects completed. I mostly read, and we even headed out to an outdoor farmer’s market (a pandemic first for me!) where I bought cozy wool socks for me, rings made out of antique spoons for the kids, and a pepper grinder from a woodworker for Nick.

Unfortunately, during the pandemic there was a run on cottage rentals and even though we tried to book for next year early this summer, there was really nothing to be had that wasn’t $3000 a week – a bit steep. Also, our kids are much older now: Sprout is going to be 12 next year and the oldest kids will be 16 and will probably have jobs. It’s been a good run but it’s time to move on. Not all is lost though! More below!

Gardening: this was our garden’s second year & like the first year we kind of took the “set it and forget it” approach. Still, we got a lot out of it despite the chaos and have learned that we can probably sow an early spring garden, a summer garden & a fall garden. We did end up sowing a fall garden but a little later than I would have liked so who knows what will happen? Despite the cold, the tomatoes are still producing and the basil is going strong. Heck, some of our herbs – like lavender, coriander & dill – have re-seeded and are producing again. Since our goal is to bring those herbs inside for wintering under grow lights, I am happy to see it!

Hopefully we will get some cool weather crops before the snow flies! Then we will pull the dying plants, lay on our home made compost and let the beds winter. Otherwise, we have garlic to plant for next year before the winter sets in.

    Canning, preserving & gleaning: we did most of the things we had done last year that we had enjoyed,

– Horseradish dill pickles
– Tomato sauce
– Spicy dilly beans
– Strawberry and raspberry jam
– Sundried tomatoes

    Some new things,

– Both dill and sweet mustard relish (made when our cucumbers turned yellow)
– Red onion and beetroot chutney
– Marinated eggplant

    Some boozy things,

– We made Nocino from friend’s black walnuts
– We made a bachelor’s jam for Winter Solstice/Yule
– We are now trying our hand at plum wine from our friend’s plums

I am going to do an entire post on all of the things we did & some recipes sometime soon. What’s notable though is what we didn’t do: salsa or tomatillo salsa. We really weren’t going through it as quickly as I thought we would, so we focused on tomato sauce instead.

Money Mondays: this is still going strong! We’ve done sessions on a bunch of things such as the Disability Tax Credit, had a guest speaker to do a presentation on wills, and next week I am doing one on budgets.

Health: the good news is that the ALS clinic told me that I am doing well enough that I only have to come in once every two years! The nurse told me that this was the first time she’s heard the doctor tell someone that so I am pretty proud. Still, I could be doing more work on my health to be quite honest.

– Mr. Tucker and I are taking long walks (I bought a yellow tricycle, which is what I usually take) weekdays. We grab the dogs in the morning, walk Sprout to the end of the street, then we walk the Bean to her bus stop & then we head down to the river for a longer walk (or just through the neighbourhood on busy mornings). It’s been really good for us both to be forced to get up, washed, dressed and out the door. Otherwise we just lounge around the house in our jammies.
– I plan to do #folktober next month to work on my fine motor skills with painting. I bought some nice watercolour paints and I need to encourage myself to use them. Wish me luck!
– I need to clean out my knitting basket to make it more user-friendly. The Sprout reminded me that I said I would teach them to knit and I still haven’t. So again, in the interest of my fine motor neuron skills (and keeping my promise) I should pull that out again.
– My vitamin regimen has made my cycle much better and that in turn has also helped my spasticity.
– I haven’t had alcohol since October 28th, 2020.
– My skin has been just awful so yesterday I was tested for a bunch of things (celiac, thyroid) and my GP is making me appointments with two dermatologists, so we will see how that will play out. I figure this may be an ongoing saga for awhile as appointments are sparse due to the pandemic.

Finances: shockingly, Mr. Tucker has made the decision to work longer in order to put more money into some house-related projects. This means we’ve eased up on our intense budget and instead we are buying more things that bring us joy. For example, we are trying to rehire our old housecleaner again as we’ve decided that our weekends are probably not best spent arguing with the kids over chores. They both know how to clean an entire house so we’ve done our job here. They’ll still have chores, just less of them.

I have also increased our a> grocery budget; and b> our pocket money. We are still saving at an amazing rate but we aren’t as intense as we were for most of this year. We hit our prepayment amount for our mortgage & will contribute to Mr. Tucker’s retirement accounts (but to a lesser degree).

Instead we are also going to…

Travel: both near and far. When we were on Manitoulin Island this summer we made the decision that if cottages were going to be $3000 a week that we would be better off booking a trip down south instead. So that is what we have done. We have tentatively booked a vacation to Jamaica next winter (covid willing!). We booked our flights & house rentals but we did manage to get good cancellation policies so we will see where the world is at come winter.

We also have decided to treat the kids & take them to Canada’s Wonderland for the Halloween Haunt. We ended up buying season passes with another family in the hopes of going back for a couple of days next summer as well.

I would like to also do more things close to home such as heading to various Halloween-themed (outdoor) events in our area. After a year and a half of being stuck at home, I am eager to spread my social wings!

So that is about it for changes around here. Mostly my days are spent reading and parenting & watching shows or playing games as a family. I think we’ve turned a corner on covid – at least in our area of the world – so I hope that stays steady. Overall, life is pretty good.

This took a year & life is very different now

This took a year & life is very different now

Last year I made the decision to take the kids to Universal for spring break. The Sprout is a huge Harry Potter fan and as they age out of theme parks (and as we hunker down for more savings), I thought it was best to plan a last hurrah of a vacation as a Christmas surprise. Of course, booking during Spring Break was way too expensive and we found we could tack on a weeklong cruise in February for almost the same price as Universal during Spring Break. So of course, we ended up booking in February.

We all know how this story ends. By the time Spring Break came around, the government was telling Canadians to come home as soon as they could and things started to slowly shut down. I had friends who got stuck in foreign countries scrambling to get home and then we all ended up in lockdown.

And here we are now.

Truth be told, nothing really changed for Mr. Tucker and I in terms of our day-to-day life. With winter raging outside I generally am housebound during the winter months. The only thing that changed was that the kids were home. Since the order that schools were closing happened on the eve of March break, all seemed normal to them as we allowed unfettered access to devices as well as played games, read books, and watched Netflix – like much of the world was doing. Come the end of March Break I stuck up a schedule (hope springs eternal), signed them up for Khan Academy and we went forward into quarantine.

Of course, it’s now almost 8 weeks since we’ve been home and so much has changed. We now have masks we ordered from Almost all of our purchases are delivery or curbside pickup, aside from Mr. Tucker’s monthly Costco run for medication and supplies. We go for walks but mostly stay inside, and our social lives (like all of our social lives) have moved to online meetings. Still – and probably hilariously – one of our New Year’s Resolutions was to not eat out at all in 2020 and since Covid-19, that hasn’t even been an option for us.

The thing is, when you have a pre-existing condition or disability your life changes dramatically. When the pandemic started the first thing I knew right from the beginning was: there is no way I will ever be prioritized for a ventilator. Even though disability rights advocates were starting petitions at the callousness of denying disabled people the same rights as able-bodied people, I knew that it didn’t matter. Even if the rules changed, the decisions wouldn’t come from a bureaucrat. Fates would be decided by overworked doctors and nurses facing down the difficult decision of who gets to live and who gets to die. We had already seen this play out in Italy and I knew that it was a real possibility that if things got bad enough here it would happen in much the same way.

So we hunkered down, found all our travel size bottles of sanitizer. Mr. Tucker wiped down every surface after he shopped, and we had a stringent protocol when he came home. Life just changed. Life changed for all of us.
I am grateful that we’re both not working full time right now. Mr. Tucker works for a company that hosts online meeting software and so you can imagine his workload right now. But the kids are home and need some guidance to complete the online work that’s assigned to them. Still, we’ve chilled out a lot more since the beginning. While we still limit access to devices to the weekends, they do their homework, classroom meetings, and Khan Academy online & we don’t restrict access to those things. There are books, art supplies, puzzles, and games for anyone to access at anytime so we’re trying to keep things as calm and laid back as possible.

We’re all exhausted and burnt out about being on top of each other all the time. While Mr. Tucker has his basement office & the girls had their rooms, I felt constantly like I had no where to go. So I found a recliner on a second-hand website which Mr. Tucker picked up for me for a song (whilst respecting social distancing rules), a friend gave me a reading light, and I carved out a corner of our bedroom where I could go and relax when the kids were in the common areas & I needed some peace. So things are working out.

As for us, we are happy spring is here and that this didn’t all begin in the fall, when the dark winter starts to close in. We’ve made sourdough for a couple of years now so I’ve happily become the purveyor of starter & I’ve have sent a long many an email of tips and tricks. We made the decision last year to buy as much of our food as locally as possible, so we’ve been lucky to weather all the hoarding (aside from toilet paper & sanitizer). We have freezers full of local meat, buckets full of flour and oatmeal, we get our eggs from the farmer up the street, and we have a weekly vegetable delivery. We had always talked about doing raised bed gardening so we’ve built beds and are looking forward to gardening with the kids all summer. As well, our pool will be open over the next couple of weeks so we won’t feel as confined to the house. So there are some things to look forward to over the next little while.

Of course, there are a million and one places you can go to hear the worst of the worst news and I am no stranger to the anxiety that comes from deep-diving into that quagmire. But now, I’ve resigned myself to just reading the headlines of major newspapers – informed but not too informed – and keeping busy at home. But I am not going to go into that here, preferring to focus on the positive. I love that so many people are taking up old-timey crafts now that they have the time, space, and boredom to tackle new projects such as baking, knitting, and gardening. I love that neighbours are helping each other with groceries, sourdough starter, and seed sharing. People are starting to see the value in supporting local farms and buying from local businesses that it looks like independent book stores are poised to take over market share from amazon. Even in the worst of times, the best of humanity shines through, and if the research is to believed, this is typical of humans when chaos hits. It may be a little while until things relax again but I’d like to think we’ll keep some of the good bits that came out of all this. One can hope.