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Ask Ellie: Back-to-school time sparks dread in mother of four

Making a schedule/chart of everything that needs to get done is first-step to easing those pre-school nerves

Dear Lisi: It’s back-to-school time and I’m dreading it! I have one in high school, one in middle school and two in elementary. My eldest daughter needs all new clothes as she grew several inches over the summer, as does my eldest son. They all need new lunch bags, water bottles and lots of school supplies.

They’re also now going to be in three different schools, with three different start and dismissal times. Plus, now that COVID-19 is something we’re all learning to live with, their programs are starting back up. One’s a swimmer, two are soccer players and one dances.

And two have food allergies that seem to have gotten worse recently. It’s still summer and I’m supposed to be resting and relaxing, but I’m getting anxious just thinking about making lunches, dinner prep and the hectic life of our family in the fall.


Parent Panic

Take a deep breath … And another. If something else chills you out, like a glass of wine or a bubble bath, have at it. Once you feel calm, sit down with paper and pen or a spreadsheet, whichever works, and make a schedule/chart of everything that needs to get done (clothes shopping, food prep, etc.); a time schedule of drop-off and pick-up; and a schedule of activities.

I also get the pre-school nerves and these are some of the things I do myself to help organize my life. Yes, it’s a huge shift from the lazy days of summer, but if you do a little bit at a time, ahead of time, you can ease in.

Good luck and let me know how it goes. And if any of you readers have helpful tips and tricks to get your family back to school, please let me know and I’ll do some followups.

Dear Lisi: I’m a 35-year-old man who’s been through a lot. I moved away from home to get clean and make something of my life. As a result, my visits “home” are few and far between. I may see my mom and brother three times a year. They both struggle with mental health, as do I.

The last time I was there I had to leave early. The smell of cat pee was traumatic and the bathroom was horrendous. In the past, when I’ve visited, I’ve tried to clean. My mom cried saying I was there to visit, not clean.

Though it would be nice to visit with my family, the state of their apartment is appalling. I told my brother that until it gets cleaned up I refuse to come. How do I tell my mom that the environment is toxic for me? That as much as I love her, I love myself and my health more.

Just miss my mom

I commend you on taking that first frightening leap of leaving home, especially when home is toxic. I hope that you’re getting help for your mental health struggles.

There are lots of people out there who can help, based on your locale and your benefits. For example, in Ontario, you can see a psychiatrist or a GP for mental health help and it’s covered by OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan). There are also lots of free call-in help lines.

You haven’t mentioned work or finances, but perhaps you could hire a cleaning service to go in to your mom’s once a month. Plan it so your visit falls closely thereafter, when you know the apartment will be clean.

What they do when you’re not there is not your responsibility. People need to want to change, just like you did, before they do change.

Dear Lisi: I have a friend I speak to regularly. We’re in our early 30s and have been friends since high school. She has a serious boyfriend and they’re planning their engagement. My boyfriend and I recently broke up.

Lately, my friend has become snarky, argumentative and judgmental. No matter what topic we’re discussing, she knows better and puts me down. I don’t get it. She just comes across as holier-than-thou.

But why?

Confused Friend

Have you asked her? I only have your side of the story so it’s hard for me to tell what she’s thinking. I suggest you straight up ask her. She may be completely surprised and apologize profusely, not realizing she was doing that. Or she may just bite your head off.

It’s a chance you’ll have to take if you want to get to the bottom of this situation. You could also just stop talking to her all the time. Your call.

Ellie Tesher and Lisi Tesher are advice columnists for the Star and based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email:

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