Happy New Year!

The year 2020 in review!

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I don’t think anyone can dispute the fact that 2020 was a pretty incredible year. Here’s a brief recap:

January – Ben and I started the year getting ready to go to Shriner’s in Montreal for surgery – we knew we had another big surgery, but weren’t really sure how long we would be there or how long his recovery would take. I quit my job assuming that I would just come back and sub when Ben was feeling better. (ok…that didn’t happen…little did I know the education industry would change in the next few months…) We flew to Montreal in January and had our first surgery to apply Ben’s halo.

Ben was declared the Child Ambassador For Al Shamal Shriners in Edmonton where he would represent at different events…woo hoo! (ok…that didn’t happen either…we missed his first big event – dropping the puck at the Oil Kings game because we were in the hospital…and pretty much the rest of the year was cancelled…but dammit…we kept the title. “Hannah…go tell the ambassador that the spaghetti is ready”. “Ambassador…go clean your room and get your socks off the floor!”

The Ambassador is in the house!

While we were away…what was Jesse up to you ask? Well….let me tell you! He was building an outdoor bathtub! Before Christmas (2019) the children approached me and said “dad is building something and we think you are gonna be mad”. Well…to be honest, this is pretty common around here, but I grimaced with dread anyways. It turns out that he was building an outdoor bathtub because he wanted to present himself to nature in his full splendour! Anyways…turns out that it is a bit difficult to control a wood stove heated bathtub at first, but I think he has got it figured out now. There were a few tricky months where we thought he would either freeze to death or cook himself. Yeah….I know…I have a lot of questions too… (btw…nature called and said…that’s enough splendour!). sidenote: we live in the country…hence…no arrests yet. Ben has been enjoying the fruits of his labours while Hannah and I tend to enjoy indoor plumbing more!

February was all about hospital living again. Ben went to school every day and I worked on my Masters. We continued to be spoiled at Shriners (as always). Hannah and Jesse came out for a visit and Hannah and I ate at a pitch black restaurant, which was weird and awesome.

Feb 18th. We noticed that Ben’s xrays looked like a dog…how crazy is that! Check it out here… 9. Cute from the Inside Out! Feb 18, 2020


Big surgery – Ben had his big surgery – it took about 7.5 hours. We spent the night in the recovery room…Ben said his lungs felt like they were being a bit squished. He desatted frequently through the night. It appeared that his lung might have collapsed a bit, so our job was to do a tonne of exercises to prevent further problems. We worked with the acute pain team to bring him some relief. It appeared that he had a pleural effusion, which is a collection of blood in the chest cavity. Once he was able to stand up, things started to improve immediately. We stayed at the MCH for close to a week. We were so grateful to our team who kept sneaking over for visits and were in constant contact.

We returned back to Shriners once Ben’s lung needs stabilized. As we returned, it became clear that this COVID thing was started to become a thing. We could notice the hospital changing day by day. We only stayed a few more days at the hospital then were discharged. We stayed at the hotel for a few days…anxious to get home. Ben’s previous lung issues and this COVID thing were starting to make me a bit anxious.

March – we returned home and Ben began his recovery. We had one eye on Hannah as we were a little nervous about her being in school and possibly getting sick. We didn’t want Ben to get sick as his lungs were still healing and his body was still quite sore. Hannah was grateful we were home so here birthday wouldn’t be ruined AGAIN – we’ve had a long lineup of screwed up Hannah birthdays because of Ben’s medical stuff (although she had an awesome birthday in 2018). We plan her birthday. On March 13th we spoke with the principal and made the call to pull Hannah out of school. We thought it was a tough decision. (fyi…4 hours later the government pulled all the children out of school…so save the drama “Karen”). Hannah’s birthday party was cancelled….sigh…

April Thus began our time of banging our head against the wall home schooling. Stand back people…trained professional here! (To be honest, home schooling was not too bad…I didn’t cut the kids any slack, and we were able to use the time to catch up a bit! – I tried to make it as miserable as possible for everyone so they wouldn’t have delusions of continuing home schooling in the future. My dreams of subbing last year were gone. We also made 27 loaves of sourdough bread (note to self: it’s $5 for a loaf of sourdough in the stores…save yourself the 72 hours prep next time).

May We received a phone call from Ben’s ear surgeon that they are ready to get his hearing aids implanted….ugh…this is the one surgery that Ben argues about. I told him that he was going to be the only 40 year old still wearing a headband. (seriously…most people wear the BAHA headbands just to see if the hearing aids work…a year max…we are at 3 1/2 years. Also, we suspect this surgery will improve his hearing – so it is happening! (sidenote: surgery was postponed – twice now – …not sure when it will be rescheduled…you won this round Ben…but not the war).

July – yay – pretend school has just finished! Ben was playing with friends and hot-tubbing when we notice a little red dot on Ben’s back that turns out to be one of his rods poking through. We wrap his torso and apply a doughnut around the area and head back on the plane for another surgery. The surgery went well, but the experience didn’t feel great…everything felt different from our experience a few months ago…colder…more clinical. Anyways, we healed up and headed home A Visual Journey

August – we had a great August…Ben healed and we had a visit with grandpa to do some fishing. We now needed to decide what to do about school. Ultimately we decided ‘in-person’ schooling was better. We consulted worked with Ben’s pulmonology (lung) team here at the Stollery to make sure we would be ok, and we felt confident that we were making the right decision.

September – Ben starts school at his new school and I pretend I am not a crazy helicopter mom who has been at school with her child for their entire life so far. I trust the institution of education to protect my child. (I am literally a stone’s throw from the school, so I casually show up on the field during gym class and recess…”hey….I didn’t know you were going to be here”. No restraining order yet!

October – Ben gets in trouble for sneak reading at school. Somehow my reluctant reader has become a readasaurus-rex. I am thrilled, but I pretend I am not. I notice a new lump on Ben’s back. I choose to ignore it and drink more. (I think we have time on this one…it’s not to close to his bendy parts).

Halloween 2020

November – Ben’s school has 7 COVID cases, but luckily he doesn’t get sick and he doesn’t get isolated. Hannah, on the other hand, has a case in her grade and the entire grade has to isolate. We make Hannah comfortable downstairs but keep her separated from the rest of us. After about a week she started to look like Tom Hanks in Castaway. I mentioned my concern to Jesse, so we throw a volleyball downstairs to keep her company. After about a week and a half we notice her starting to ‘go dark’. We decide to COVID test her (negative) and release her back to upstairs society again. At this point, all the grade 7-12s in the province are rescinded to ‘at-home learning’ so she has still not been able to socialize with normal people except for us (who she describes as “not normal”…because she is a teenage girl…and we are gross…and boring…and suck).

December – blah….we have our Christmas party with our friends through Zoom. While the adults play a game, the kids have a cup-stacking contest to see who can build the tallest structure. (sidenote: if you go to Costco during lockdown to 4 gigantic packages of Solo cups – people glare at you). I should have worn my “I’m a Karen” t-shirt.

Top 5 WTF’s of 2020

  • COVID – I seriously didn’t see that coming!
  • HOMESCHOOLING – there’s not enough booze in Alberta!
  • SCREWS LOOSE...seriously?!?!?
  • KAREN becoming a swear word!
  • And finally….THE OUTDOOR BATHTUB

Top 5 Awesomes of 2020

Cyber Appointments Probably about half of our appointments are by Zoom these days! How awesome is that! That’s about three hours saved for every appointment (or in the case of our Montreal appointments…three days!!!)

Slowing Down The Pace – we have slowed down our millions of extracurricular activities…and that is kind of nice!

Meeting the neighbours! We have lived in the same spot for about 15 years…finally this year we got to meet some of the neighbours because everyone is going for walks with their families. We even set up a picnic table for visits in our cul de sac and had doggy dates!

Year-round bookclub! – Normally my bookclub only meets during the school year, but this year because we were all staying home we had the opportunity to have it all summer…and outside to boot – 2 metres apart…loved it!

Curbside Pickup – I’m not gonna lie…curbside pickup at some of these nicer restaurants is awesome! I’m loving it! For New Years we got Melting Pot and had a family fondue…couldn’t do that last year!

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7 thoughts on “Happy New Year!

  1. You had quite the year and I always admire how you manage everything
    and keep smiling while thinking of everybody. Cheers to you and your wonderful family. May 2021 bring you some relief and lots of love . xox

  2. Happy New Year to you & your family Karen! I so enjoy your updates, and laugh out loud at least once per letter! haha May 2021 continue to bring positive progress for Ben, and more delicous cocktail recipes for you! 😉

  3. You guys are amazing! Thanks for sharing these inspirational, funny, scary, but always positive and forward looking messages! (In case you don’t recognize my name, I last saw you at James’s 4th birthday party at West Edmonton Mall Water Park. I’m Ryan’s Aunt from Vernon, BC.)
    So much has happened since then! Keep your chin up and all the best for you all in 2021!

    1. Of course Marion! It’s so nice to hear from you! I didn’t realize you had moved to Vernon. Jesse talks to Ryan regularly, but sometimes forgets to update me. Happy New Year to you too! It’s so nice to hear from you!

  4. It’s always so great to read your updates! I miss your family and the daily funnies that were bound to happen spending time with you and Ben! Please tell the kids Mrs. Blanchette says hello!!💕

  5. Karen, Happy new year to you, Ben, and your family. Really enjoy reading lovely story. All the best for you all in 2021

  6. Best story writer ever!! Love the humour and the love evident in the words. Poor Hannah, struggling with teenage angst, she’ll live. Really glad to see Ben with level shoulders, smiling, reaching for that tree top. Happy New Year, and all my love xoxo. Donna

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