Rievaj family: alone together during COVID-19

Alone together is a Pioneer series about how local families are coping with COVID-19

By Steve Hubrecht


The Columbia Valley Pioneer continues its look at how local families and individuals are coping with COVID-19. This instalment comes from the Rievaj family in Windermere.

Michelle and Mark Rievaj:

We have to be especially careful as a family right now because of Mark’s immune-compromised status. That said we are finding lots to do. We have been self-isolating since March 13 — as much as a family of six is isolated. From the start we set out a basic framework of one productive activity per person per day, and one outdoor activity. Productive activities have included things such as re-organizing closets/shelves/drawers in bedrooms, going though the bookshelves, cleaning rooms, household chores, spring yard clean-up, caring for pets (we have a dog, a cat, two rabbits, and chickens), cooking and baking. It’s great when your kids are big enough to bake and clean-up independently! We have really tried to do these productive tasks together as a family, which makes them way more fun.

We were skiing and biking on the lake when that was still viable. We have also made use of the school field to play baseball/catch together as a family, and we have been going for family walks in our neighbourhood. We are fortunate to have a really big yard so we have been jumping on the trampoline, playing on the zipline, having fire-pits, riding bikes, and generally running around out there. Mark and I have been running together several times per week, we have a chin-up bar in the basement, and Mark has his wind-trainer set up downstairs as well to keep us from going stir-crazy. The kids have also really been enjoying their unstructured time in the house. Our lego/play room hasn’t seen this much action in months!

As for screen time, there has been much more of it around here than usual, but we have tried to be very intentional around it: no screens without productive time and outdoor time first, there must be a purpose to what the screens are used for, and time slots are limited. We have been watching the Banff Film Festival films together as a family (they are free online!), we have taken a few virtual tours of famous world landmarks, Seth has started playing online Risk with some friends from school, and Anika keeps in touch with her friends via Facetime and text. We also host regular Zooms with extended family across the country. We also use Zoom to ‘go’ to church remotely and for piano lessons.

So far, I think we have adapted pretty well to these odd circumstances, but it is a strange time and we have definitely experienced new stresses. Mark is working from home and only leaves for isolated outdoor time. I have never felt so uncomfortable shopping (I really appreciate the efforts by local grocers to reduce risk in their stores), and we have changed our routine to bi-weekly shops only. I am the designated public-spaces person and I limit my trips to absolutely necessary errands. Every item that comes into our home from ‘the outside’ is suspect and requires consideration as to how it will be handled, and every trip is carefully considered to minimize exposure. We have abandoned some outdoor plans because too many other people had the same idea at the same time and, as we move into week three, I am reminded of mundane but important things such as haircuts, dentist and doctor appointments, and I wonder when they will be able to resume.

Now that school is slowly starting up again, our mornings will be consumed with school work, but I am hoping to keep our afternoons free for the kids to continue to have unstructured time. We have noticed a difference in how relaxed, happy, and amicable our kids have been without their regular busy schedules. We are taking advantage of the opportunity to complete projects, try things we have always wanted to try, cook together, play together, and really enjoy each other’s company.

Sometimes we each need to find a quiet space of our own, sometimes our big yard is still not quite big enough for four active kids, we all miss our friends and regular activities, but so far this unexpected reprieve from the busy-ness of life has been an unexpectedly pleasant one. Ask me again in a month 😉

Alone together is a Pioneer series. For part one, see https://www.columbiavalleypioneer.com/news/alone-together-during-covid-19/

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