September Again

Wow. Where did the summer go? I’m sitting back on campus against a wall because it’s got a plug in, waiting for my 8 am lab to start. My boys are at daycare again. We’ve all got a cold… again.

I know the new year begins in January, but for me, September 1 has always felt like the beginning. School year, fall, the steady march towards the shortest day of the year… They all begin in September. The motivation I lost during the summer months slowly awakens from its hibernation so here I am writing again.

If September is the beginning, what is new here in the Topping household? Well, I’ve started my final year of my bachelor degree. It’s taken a long time to get here. I started my degree 10 years ago this September. Yup. It’s taken me that long to finish a degree. It’s a fact about which I’m both embarrassed and proud. You see, I’ve dropped out twice and returned twice. When I left the first time, my mom told me that people who dropped out never went back. It was exactly the motivation I needed to return one day. When I left because I was pregnant, I thought my education was over, but two years later, I was back. And now, I’m working on my final year.

The classes are less than ideal. I mean, I’m doing all the courses that I put off til the end because they looked boring. I’m sitting on the floor at 7:30 am waiting for my 3-hour 8:00 am class to start, for goodness sake. Not ideal. But it’s short term. And even if I don’t love the classes I’m taking, I do enjoy school. I find that the stress of exams, deadlines, and readings to be manageable…unless there’s group work involved. Ohhh, I hate group work.

The boys may be in daycare again, but it’s with a different provider. My last was wonderful and I enjoyed every minute, but we knew going in that it wouldn’t be long term. I’m sad that it ended, but I’m immensely glad that our families still spend time together. This new place is government regulated, which means good and bad things. Good for reliability and getting government subsidy, not so good because the workers have such big groups so they don’t form as personal a bond with your kids. The boys are separated into different age groups, which has been good for Eggs since he’s starting to come out of his shell, but sad because they don’t get to spend as much time together. I’d hoped that they’d be more excited to see each other at the end of the day since they were apart so long, but they fight the same amount as before. Turns out absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder when you’re a toddler.

Life has been quiet lately. It’s nice. A friend of mine and I went for dinner last month and he said that you know you’re an adult when you look forward to the boring, stable times. And there is an element of truth to that. Our lives have marched along a straight and stable road, kicking up as little dust as it could along the way. My penchant for change has been burrowing into my brain, but I’m enjoying that we don’t have to worry about anything unnecessary at the moment.

What has September brought you this year? Does motivation seem to knock on your door come September 1? Or is September simply the ninth month of the year?

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Ugh School

Welp, I’m trying to plan the last six classes I need to graduate. Woo hoo! I’m almost done! I’ve been plugging away at an undergraduate degree for the past ten years and it feels really nice to be finished soon.

 

Oh wait. My school is the worst scheduler in the world.

 

Yes, today might be a bit of a rant because I’ve struggled with this every. single. year. I’m serious. It’s part of the reason I left school to have a family.

You see, I should have been able to graduate in December of this year. That’s how Brian and I planned it from the beginning. When I got into classes for this winter term, there were only four scheduled that I could take. Annoying, but it meant that I would need to take an extra spring class. Oh well. So I planned my spring classes. I needed to take four, but they only offered three. Annoying again, but it just meant that I would have to jump through a few extra hoops in the fall.

Here’s the thing: you have to be approved to take six courses in one term because a regular full-time course load is five courses. My grades are good enough that I could handle it just fine. I’m sure that approval isn’t a big deal.

Then enrollment happened. There are two courses open for me in the fall of this year. There are the full five offered in the winter. One course is not offered at all. It’s just not scheduled. Where the “View Course Selections” button is, it just says ”
*** This course has not been scheduled. ***”

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Sigh. It doesn’t even sound fun.

I’ve sent an email to my adviser about this problem, which hasn’t been answered. She’s a busy lady. So I’m going in on Tuesday to meet with her. I’ve got no hope of graduating in December. If I can figure out something to do with this *insert curse word* of a class, hopefully I can graduate in April 2018. Sigh.

So, as it stands, I won’t be in school at all in the fall and I’ll be taking five classes in January next year. So that’s just super.

 Update (21 March): I met with an advisor to figure things out. While I’ll still be graduating next April (sigh), they’re letting me take a substitute class for the one not offered. While I’m still frustrated that our program struggles with planning, I am grateful that they’re working with me. I’ve been placed into 3 classes in the fall and 4 in the winter. Since I wasn’t graduating this fall, I figured I could bump an elective from this spring to next winter. All in all, progress is being made!

 

First Week of School

September is nearly through and I’ve been successfully going to school three days a week. I was definitely nervous in the months leading up to September, wondering if mom brain would have destroyed my ability to learn, wondering if the boys were going to do well at a day home, wondering if Brian would realize that he did not want this one bit. It’s been a bit stressful.

But now I’m on week 3 of being back to school and let me tell you, I’m loving it. The drive is very long, but I’m listening to episodes of my favorite web series, which makes me look forward to the drive. I haven’t had 2 hours of uninterrupted entertainment time since Monkey was born so this is a treat. I might change my tune after it snows, but for now, it’s okay. I’m leaving early enough in the morning that I watch the sunrise through the forests that line the back roads. I see the bright harvest moon reflect on the heavy fog that lazily drifts over the pavement. I saw a moose once, which was both terrifying and exhilarating. The drive is nice.

My classes are a mixed bag. I have two that I absolutely adore, which is perfect because they are the first two classes I take on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I have a class that I loathe, but I sit next to a girl who also isn’t a fan and we roll our eyes at one another for an hour and a half, which is kind of fun. I’m indifferent about my last two classes. One is dry, but important. The other is fine, but I had high expectations about what that class was going to be. Those expectations aren’t being met.

I’m learning a lot. My first–and favorite–class is about writing. It’s less about filling our heads with complex terms and theories and more about practice, honing skills, and helping ourselves be better writers. Like its prerequisite, I don’t come out of the class talking about the terms I’ve learned. I just come out different. There’s lots of mining my own life to reflect and make meaning of things I’ve experienced. Then putting them down on paper. It has definitely changed how I think about my history and it has given me a huge amount of courage to be honest with myself, my family, and my friends about my life.

This stuff wouldn’t be possible, though, if I didn’t have a professor that I admired and respected. Jessica Kluthe isn’t only a professor, she’s also an amazing author. If you haven’t checked out her book Rosina, The Midwife, I think you should. If you don’t have the money for a novel, check out her short story for free on Little Fiction. She’s also approachable, kind, and supports other writers. She’ll probably be embarrassed that I’ve put this on here.

My second favorite class is actually an anthropology class. I’ve always loved anthro, which is the study of humans in past and present societies (not be confused with the weirdly spelled store). It’s so cool to see how people in different places, and different times, made sense of how our world works. This particular course, though, is about gender and age in our culture. I wasn’t entirely sure how many people would be interested in this class, but it’s one of the fullest classes I’ve ever taken. There are 60 other students there, which is huge for my school.

We talk about gender bias and defining gender and what it means to be male or female or something in between. We talk about gender roles, stereotypes, and social class. The professor is awesome. She’s dorky and engaging and very sweet. When she lectures, she moves her hands like she’s a dancer. She’s a mom that talks about gender neutral parenting (something I’m super interested in). I think I could learn a lot from her. I have to take 1 more anthropology course and I would rather take a course that she teaches that I am less interested in than a course that I’m really interested in that is taught by someone else.

I have a law class (super informative), a visual communications class, and a book editing class. They’re okay. I like the professors in all three, which is great. The content is a little… *shrugs shoulders.* But that’s fine.

All of this wouldn’t matter, though, if my boys were struggling in day care. But they are thriving. Monkey is communicating more and slowly giving up his bottle. Eggs is a gigantic teddy bear, but he’s learning to be more independent. They have two friends that are so very sweet. One of them gets a big toothless grin on his face when he sees Eggs. It makes me melt. The other is a sweet, talkative darling who takes Monkey under her wing. And the caretaker… Let me tell you, she is perfect for this job. I’m so very blessed.

So I want to thank everyone for being so incredibly encouraging in this journey. Thank you for talking me out of giving up, for not pressuring me to stay home with the kids, for helping us out with babysitting, and for offering encouragement when we chat. I’m so happy to be where I am right now.

Being Thankful

So a couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog with five things I’ve learned after being married for five years and people seemed to really respond to tip #4: having an attitude of gratitude.

Well today I got another lesson in gratitude.

A summary of what’s been going on in our lives: when Brian’s mom passed away a couple of years ago, she blessed us with a lot of help to start our lives as a couple. She thought ahead and while I’m sad she didn’t get to enjoy the money she worked so hard to save, I know that she would have been thrilled to know that she gave us a chance to start a family significantly earlier than we would have otherwise. Anyways, after buying a home and vehicles, there was only a little left. We needed to have some to pay for landscaping and then the rest was meant to be saved for a rainy day.

Moving out of the city and back to my home town meant that I left a job behind. And as much as Becka two years ago won’t believe this, I am dying to get out of the house. Some people are cut out to be stay-at-home parents and I am convinced that I am not one of them. Brian and I both believe that I would serve my boys better as a mother and a role model by at least working part time. But there’s not a whole lot out here in our small town. So we talked about me going back to university to finish my degree. I have three terms left in my bachelor so we thought let’s apply and see.

I re-wrote the entrance exam and was accepted, which was great, but by the time that I was able to choose my classes (students who went to school in the last school year got first choice of classes and I had to wait), all the classes I needed were full. There was a time limit for me to finish my degree and with the classes I needed being full, there was no way it was going to work.

Now, without going too deeply into my spiritual journey, I decided that I had to rely on God. If I was supposed to be going to school, He’d make it happen. If I wasn’t, then I’d have to figure that out. So we left it there and continued on with our lives. I applied to a job, but never heard back. September felt so far away anyways so I just pushed the whole thing to the back of my mind.

Then one day I was just checking the classes, just cause I’d exhausted all my social media entertainment while I waited for Eggs to fall asleep in my arms, and the two classes I needed suddenly had a single seat left. My classes had aligned and I’d be able to take all my classes in 3 days a week so that I could spend the other four with my boys. I was thrilled! It was a time of thankfulness and a little uncertainty. Was this a sign that I should go to school? Or just a coincidence?

Now that I finally had a schedule, I had to figure out childcare. And childcare is expensive (which I completely understand because the workers need to earn a living too). We were living more or less paycheque to paycheque now that my maternity leave had ended and we were officially a single income household. Three days of childcare a week would take up a full third of our monthly income. So again I turned to my beliefs and left the stress with God. While September was getting closer, it still seemed like an eon away.

A friend told me about government subsidies for child care for qualifying families. Yes! This is what I was looking for! But wait, you have to have your children enrolled in a licensed, approved family day home. The one that we were looking at was private and, therefore, not eligible. So I did some calling and emailing and got us on a list. Turns out the waiting lists for these things are insane. I was told not to hold my breath. Thankfully, the lady running the day home we originally wanted to go with told us to keep her updated and that she may still have space for us if we couldn’t get into the other homes.

So I dumped that in God’s lap too. But now I was wondering, is this a sign that I’m not supposed to go to school? Is this just character building? Is it just a coincidence? We kept waiting. And waiting. And we fielded off questions about school because I’d been so excited before and now I was a little less so and people were noticing. But people were also praying.

And now it’s today. School is just over a month away. I’ve been stressing a little more as each day passes, but with the definite feeling like I’m supposed to be going back. Brian was stressing too, I could tell. Not that I blame him. He’s being a saint in his support for me and this plan, knowing that he will be taking a huge amount of work with the boys on the days I have school.

This morning I had a dear friend over to visit while she was in town and I told her about the worries we were having. Told her about how I wasn’t sure that there was going to be the money for school and the house and living and maybe how I was afraid that I’d go back to school only to find that now I didn’t have enough money to feed my family and I wasn’t even enjoying the program. She commiserated and encouraged me. She left and while I was enjoying the boys’ nap time, I thought I’d check on our bank account. And there was a lot more money in our chequing than I expected.

Our child tax benefit has come into effect today and we will be receiving enough money to cover 2/3 of our child care costs every month. I know that our government was revamping the child tax benefit and I’d heard people talking about it pretty negatively so I didn’t look too much into it. So now I had this stress-relieving surprise that let me take a deeper breath than I have in a long while.

This school thing has come together in a way that I wasn’t sure it would. I’ve been afraid, but I trusted that it would work out if that was the plan for me. And I feel like it is. So, come September, I’ll be driving 1.5 hours one way to school three days a week with the assurance that I’m going where I am meant to. It’s going to be so hard on Brian, the boys, and myself, but I haven’t been this sure of our direction in a long time. And for that I am so very grateful.