If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know that I was born and raised in Canada. I’ve lived all over the U.S., but settled in Michigan in 2005, so I could be within an hour’s drive of my family across the border. In normal times, we’d see my parents every week or every other week like most families would get together–ours just happened to be a cross-border relationship.
On Saturday, February 22nd, 2020, when we said, “See you soon!” after my five-year-old’s birthday party, we had no idea what we were in for. My mom was scheduled to come over in a couple of weeks to pick up our dog so my husband, kids and I could head off to Copenhagen and then Sweden.
Well, we all know what happened next.
(And if you haven’t pieced it together: COVID. Coronavirus. World shutting down.)
Hopes For a Reunion Dashed
As weeks turned into months, we were hopeful that the June 21st, 2020 slated border opening would allow us to FINALLY see my parents, brother and sister-in-law; however, two days prior, the Canadian government extended the border closure another month. And then, another month. And another and another and another…
Now, here we are in November, almost nine months since we’ve seen each other. Keep in mind that although my girls and I are dual citizens (my hubby is not), we had the right to cross into Canada. However, there have been strict quarantine regulations in place which include not being around anyone over the age of 65 (which would discount my parents’ place). My brother had to return to work in May, so his house was not an option either, as we would have no separate eating area and bathroom (also in the quarantine guidelines). Most hotels were not accepting residents of other countries and there were no rentals I could find that had private, outdoor space that is mandatory when you’re cooped up with two little kids.
Where to Quarantine?
This summer, we ventured out to a local park to see a friend of my daughter from our old town. I remembered meeting her dad at a prior year’s birthday party where he mentioned that his parents had a cottage in the town next to where I grew up in Canada.
A lightbulb soon turned on. This American family was unable to use their Canadian cottage, less than 45 minutes from their home because of the border closure. Perhaps, they would rent it to us so we could complete our 14-day quarantine in a place I knew would be safe for a mom and two kids.
Sure enough, this kind family was happy to help reunite the Chaboreks (my family) and we tried to figure out the best time to go, as the girls actually started the year in hybrid mode with two days in school physically and three at home.
The Remote Learning Situation
As it turned out, the last few weeks of school have been a mess. After we already paid for the rental, the district decided to go back, physically, four days/week the week we would be leaving. My daughters’ teachers kindly arranged for work to be sent home so we could prepare. Then, because of cases spiking, the district moved to 100% remote for two weeks with plans to return to two days/week. The night we left for Canada, we received notice that the district would be fully remote until at least mid-December.
This was a blessing in disguise for us, as we just packed a few extra bags, a couple of old laptops and a seven-year-old iPad and added
Packing For Quarantine
It’s difficult enough to pack for vacation with two kids, let alone for a quarantine where you aren’t allowed to leave the house or see other people.
Thankfully, I’m way out of the potty training and diaper years and the house we rented has a washer and dryer, so I tried to limit the number of clothes we brought with us. And, because we figured, months ago, that it wouldn’t be safe to have holiday gatherings, I suggested that once our 14-day quarantine was over, we celebrate Christmas as a family. We had already missed birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Canadian Thanksgiving, so it made sense…and I knew, that as my parents’ only grandchildren, my girls would get spoiled beyond belief. So, I definitely couldn’t pack the car too much.
For those who may be headed into a quarantine situation with kids, regardless of your circumstances, here’s a list of some of the must-haves we packed:
- If crossing an international border, all birth certificates, passports, color copies of citizenship documents, international health insurance. And, for good measure, whenever I’m traveling cross-border with my girls but without my husband, I have him write, sign and date a letter stating he’s okay with me taking the girls to Canada without him. I know…it sounds old-fashioned, but because we live in a border city, child trafficking is a huge issue, so I never want to get caught in a suspicious situation.
- Copies of negative COVID tests. Yep, we did it; we had the girls get the test and you know what? They were fine with it. My hubby and I figured it couldn’t hurt for us to self-isolate as much as possible for two weeks before the trip and then have negative COVID test results to show at the border, just in case. Turns out, we weren’t asked for them, but having negative results helped ease my mind about eventually seeing my parents.
- Proof of rabies vaccination if you’re bringing a dog cross-border, along with the pet’s food, bowls, leashes, favorite toys and pet carrier. We brought Georgie, our Pekingese, who is currently staying at my parents’ house.
- Address and phone number of the place you’re staying, as well as a reliable number (preferably, cell phone) where you can be reached. At least in Canada, you need to give this to the Border Patrol agent so they can pass it along to the government. I was told to stay by my phone because the Canadian government will call me to check that we’re where we’re supposed to be.
- An international calling, data and messaging plan for your cell phone. I have an international plan that covers me in 70 countries, but be sure to look into your carrier’s options.
- Laptops/iPad/whatever device you need for kids’ remote learning, along with ALL chargers (and maybe even a couple of back-ups). Unfortunately, we’re not virtual learning, meaning we would have flexibility in our schedule, so the girls have to each be on their own device at the same time, all day.
- Kids’ school backpacks with pencil cases, books, notebooks, scissors, pencils, crayons/pencil crayons, workbooks, etc. If you remember my post from the beginning of the pandemic, you know I loaded up on workbooks from the Dollar Tree. These things are a Godsend for the days I feel like the kids need a little extra something to fill-in-the-blanks with their learning or to keep them busy. They are especially helpful to have on hand if the internet goes out.
- Computer monitor if you’re bringing your laptop for work. I bought an inexpensive HP monitor at the beginning of the school year and it sure helps when I have to work for long stretches of time. Plus, it can double as a TV if the place you’re staying at doesn’t have one.
- DVDs, Roku or similar device if your destination doesn’t have cable or satellite. I’m not a huge TV-watcher, but I recognize that 14 days with two kids could be extremely difficult if the weather is bad and they can’t get outside to play.
- Small suitcase for each kids’ toys and books. My girls are using old Our Generation doll carriers (like this one) which means we’ve kept the gear to must-have items. They also bought their small bin of plastic horses, which they play with constantly. My nine-year-old slid in a boxed set of books from her favorite series and considering I’m a bookworm myself, how could I be upset that she brought a ton of books?
- Board games and a deck of cards. We’re a game-loving family, so we brought a couple of board games and a deck of cards with us to mix up our activities a bit.
- Kids’ extracurriculars. My oldest daughter is a drummer and obviously, we couldn’t bring her drum set. What we could bring was her drum pad, sticks and rudiments book. Two weeks is a long time for any kid who is used to a routine of practicing something, so if your child is into a sport, instrument or something else, try to bring what they need with you.
- If you have access to a washer and dryer, bring a small amount of detergent and dryer sheets and only pack enough clothes for five days. I packed all of my clothes and toiletries into my favorite travel backpack using packing cubes and my girls’ clothes and toiletries into another (check out the backpack here). I threw in a small first aid kit for good measure.
- If headed to colder weather, coats, hats, gloves and boots so everyone can still get some fresh air, even if it’s just on the porch or a balcony.
- Non-perishable food items for 14 days along with a plan to get food (you’ll get asked this at the border). Not the healthiest load, but I packed three different cereal boxes, spaghetti-O’s, soups, water, popcorn, hot chocolate, K-cups (our rental has a Keruig), tea bags, peanut butter, almond butter and a few treats. On the healthier side, I packed some canned veggies, That’s It bars, Kind Nut Clusters, my favorite green protein powder, 10 Kencko packets, fruit and nut packets and veggie straws.
- I asked my mom and brother to drop off perishables at our rental’s door because I wasn’t sure how long the border crossing would take and didn’t want food to spoil. So, they brought some fruits and vegetables, frozen food, milk, eggs, orange juice, cheese, yogurt and of course, lots and lots of our favorite Canadian treats.
- Self-care items. This is SO imperative, especially for moms. I figure that since I only have a few Google Meets scheduled during my time in Canada, I am going all-out on self-care. I mean, when do you have another opportunity to NOT have to see anyone else; to NOT have extra work in the house to do; to NOT have to be anywhere but the house? Kind of this introvert’s dream come true! So, I brought my favorite green clay mask, a vibrating facial roller, a variety of nail polishes for the girls and me, a nail dryer (a new treat for us to try), a deep conditioner and my favorite skincare products. I am going ALL out and that mascne (acne or rashes caused from mask-wearing) better be gone in two weeks! I also brought my yoga mat and printed out my favorite ab and glute challenges (for good measure, I laminated them and brought a dry erase marker so I can keep track of days in quarantine).
Optional Items to Bring Into Quarantine
Thankfully, the house we rented came stocked with plates, cups, cooking utensils, pots, pans, dish soap, garbage bags, paper towels, towels, broom, etc. If it didn’t, I would’ve had to drag all of that stuff over with me.
I seriously considered bringing my crockpot, but since the rental is only 15 minutes from my parents’ house, my mom insisted on making me some casseroles and dishes and dropping them off. I think part of it is that she wants to see us well-fed, but she also wants a peek at the grandkids through the window. I can’t blame her!
Quarantine Isn’t Ideal, But It’s Necessary Right Now
I totally get why countries are enforcing mandatory quarantines on anyone entering their countries at this time. It still sucks, though.
And, if you don’t have an ideal place to quarantine, you’ll have to find a place to rent, which can be expensive.
But, it is what it is and I can’t stand to be away from my parents, brother and sister-in-law for another minute, so we’ll do what we have to do. I can’t wait any longer and seeing that our vacations were canceled this year, we’re treating this as our big vacation. Getting into that mindset makes things a little easier to deal with and instead of being afraid of being cooped up with two kids for 14 days without my husband’s help (or any outside help for that matter), I’m looking forward to rest and recharge a little bit, and having the peace of mind that when we get to FINALLY see my parents, we aren’t passing on germs or something much, much worse.
Have You Quarantined?
I don’t need to know if you quarantined because of a COVID exposure or if you just traveled to/from another country like we’re planning, but I’d love to hear your tips for making quarantine easier on the whole family. Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.