family fun · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness

Day 546: A Fast from Screens

Yesterday was a weird Yom Kippur. I wasn’t feeling great, and fasting is more important than attending synagogue, so I took two naps. Yes, two. I got five hours of sleep during the day. At the end of the day I gathered the family and we did the end of the Neilah service, blew the shofar, and did havdalah. It felt magical.

I also went screen-free from Wednesday afternoon until I turned on our synagogue’s livestream yesterday evening around 7:00. I really enjoyed it—I might try going screen-free on Shabbat for a few weeks and see how that feels.

I’m actually very tempted to enforce a screen-free Shabbat policy for the kids, too; Yesterday I had said there would be no screen time for anyone til at least noon… which lead to them asking all morning whether it was noon yet. Their level of screen addiction isn’t surprising, but it doesn’t fill me with delight either. I think they need some time out to rediscover all the things they used to do.

This weekend we’re taking a short road trip and we’re not taking computers (at least, we’re not taking any of the kids’ computers. I might bring mine just for blogging purposes.) It’s going to be great—I love road trips with the kids. It’s the perfect opportunity to make them listen to whatever podcasts or musicals I want them to hear. In all seriousness, though, my kids do road trips really well—they always have, even as toddlers. I don’t even have to bring wrapped toys to surprise them with anymore.

All of this to say that if you don’t see a post from me tomorrow or Sunday, do not panic. Remain calm and go read some of my really old stuff—I was funnier back then.

diet recovery · Jewy goodness · parenting

Day 544: Yom Kippur

I’ve been reading Honey From the Rock, which is essentially an introduction to Jewish Mysticism, ever since my screen-free Rosh Hashana ten days ago. The very first section touched on my absolute favourite biblical analogy: the wilderness after the Exodus from slavery.

The story goes like this: after being freed from bondage in Egypt, the Children of Israel wandered the desert. They complained a lot. A LOT. They wanted to return to Egypt, where they had meat and onions to eat instead of manna all the time (they seem to have had a pretty short memory when it came to the brutally hard labour and the killing of their babies.) They were pretty insecure when it came to God, too—and as soon as Moses was absent for a bit longer than expected, they went back to the idolatry they’d become familiar with in Egypt. They couldn’t conceive of a God with no physical representation. As a consequence, nobody who had been alive during the Exodus was allowed to enter the Promised Land. They were all fated to die in the desert.

This resonates with me on so many levels. I feel like I’m in a wilderness of sorts these days, having escaped from the oppression of diet culture. Like the Israelites, I’m not really sure what to do now. I’m so confused about what to eat, when to eat, how to eat, how to live without constantly thinking about my weight and appearance. I don’t know what a life outside of diet culture looks or feels like. I often feel like it would be easier and simpler to return to diet culture, where at least I know what I’m supposed to be doing.

It might actually be easier for me to just go back to the endless cycle of dieting; it’s scary out here in the wilderness, where anything can happen. It’s wide open and full of possibility, but let’s face it—not all possibilities are good ones. More importantly, I don’t want my children to grow up surrounded on all sides by diet culture. I might die (not now, eventually) still wandering this wilderness without a clue, but my children will have a chance at a life that I can’t even imagine, where their bodies are valued for how they feel and what they can do instead of for how small they can become. To paraphrase Max Planck, body acceptance will progress one funeral at a time.

Going into the Yom Kippur fast tonight, I’ll be reflecting on how I intend to strengthen my resolve, stay the course, and explore this wilderness in which I find myself.

To everyone who is observing Yom Kippur (in whatever way you observe: not everyone can or should fast) I wish a Gmar Chatimah Tovah—may we all be written and sealed in the Book of Life this year.


Day 543: Mr. December’s Rebuttal

Hi Everyone, Mr. December here.

I would like to respond to the recent blog post #notallbedtimes.

First, I’d like to offer a fact check of one of the accusations leveled against me:

  • While a cow is a barnyard animal, an octopus is not.1

Now, in my defense:

Despite what you may have heard, our current bedtime routine is supported by robust empirical data, which I submit to you—the readers—for peer review:

This recent survey of four representative children revealed:

  • 100% want longer bedtimes, not shorter, as implied by the author
  • 100% want not less, but more shenanigans
  • 100% reported that being rowdy at bedtime had no impact on their sleep. 
  • 75% rate bedtimes as “lots of fun”, with 25% having “sufficient” fun. None noted a fun deficit. Comments afterwards by multiple survey participants noted that more fun is required.
  • Barnyard animal preferences were mixed, ranging from no barnyard animals, to more than three.

In conclusion, the evidence suggests moving in the opposite direction: longer bedtimes with at least one additional shenanigan. 

In life, each person must play their role. Sara is Juliette to my Romeo; Bonnie to my Clyde; Stick-in-the-mud to my let’s-have-fun; the bad cop to my good cop. 

So tonight, while I engage in bedtime shenanigans, she says she’ll be finding some extra sheets and blankets and putting them on the couch for some reason.

Image description: Bar graphs of the results of Mr. December’s bedtime survey, which can be found at in a new tab)

blogging · Keepin' it real · Kids · parenting · whine and cheese

Day 542: #NotAllBedtimes

Some parents love bedtime: “It’s such a cozy, quiet time of day,” they gush. “We read stories and sing songs and snuggle.” Sounds nice, but that description doesn’t really capture what bedtime is like in our house. Right at the point where I’m finally craving some alone time, the kids—egged on by Mr. December—engage in all kinds of shenanigans.

As I type this, N is talking endlessly about his new Pokémon cards. It’s an assault on my ears and brain and I can’t focus on writing my blog post. “STOP TALKING AND GO TO SLEEP!” I call up the stairs.

Oh, look: here comes Mr. December, staggering out of the kids’ rooms with his shirt untucked and his hair disheveled. He looks pitiful, but I have zero pity for him.

Five minutes ago I got a FaceTime call from him. When I answered, R’s face filled the screen for a moment… and then suddenly morphed into a cow face, an octopus, and back to a cow. She giggled uncontrollably but said nothing intelligible. Then I saw another call come in, this time from R’s phone.

“Please stop,” I said, tapping decline on the new call.

She didn’t stop. She rang again. I declined. She rang, I declined. Ring. Decline. Ring. Decline. Ring. Decline. Ri—slide to power off. I hung up on her. The entire time Mr. December could be heard in the background, alternately laughing and protesting while the kids jumped all over him.

This is what passes for bedtime in our house. I hate it—which is why I generally opt out. My rules for bedtime are as follows:

  1. I don’t tuck you in unless you’ve changed into clean clothes (or pyjamas) and brushed your teeth properly.
  2. I’m happy to hug and snuggle, but do NOT try to grab at me when I finally tell you it’s time to sleep. Grabbing hurts.
  3. You get one tuck in. That’s it, just one. I am not going to tuck you in repeatedly if you keep popping out of bed.

In contrast, Mr. December’s rules of bedtime seem to be:

  1. Have lots of rowdy fun so that the kids get worn out and exhausted.
  2. Someone must pretend to be at least three different kinds of barnyard animal.
  3. If the kids aren’t laughing hysterically, he’s doing it wrong

I used to resent having to be the Bad Cop who stomps into the room and orders everyone to sleep right now… I mean it… DON’T MAKE ME COME IN THERE. But now I just resent the fact that bedtime takes forty minutes, leaving me with very little grownup time at the end of the day. Believe it or not, I do need time to decompress after a full day of parenting.

“Is it really 9:40?” Mr. December asked twenty minutes ago. “That bedtime took way too long!”

“NO KIDDING!” I tried to deadpan. It came out more like a yell than anything else, though.

“You seem upset,” he said mildly as he jogged down the stairs to his office.

I hate bedtime.

Homeschool · Keepin' it real · Kids

Day 541: That’s where all the food went…

Guess who got a haircut this weekend?

Not me.

Not Mr. December either—he still looks like a rock star with his thick, wavy, shoulder-length hair.

Not R, N, or E. I was too lazy to cut any of their hair this weekend.

Now that I think of it, this is the first haircut anybody in this house has had in over 542 days that wasn’t done by me.

Yesterday my mum took K to her hairdresser and got her a real, honest-to-goodness professional haircut. It looks amazing. See for yourself:

Image description: K is facing the camera. Her hair is parted on her left side; the left side of her hair is extremely short and the right side is long and swept across her forehead. She’s wearing her turquoise glasses and matching headphones.

Holy cow, could she look any more like a teenager?

It’s not something we used to do, but before camp this summer we measured the kids’ height against a wall in our basement. A couple of days ago we measured them again. They’ve all grown a bit, but N grew three centimetres (an inch and a quarter) in eight weeks. If I hadn’t been measuring him I wouldn’t have known until he actually donned a pair of real pants and we all saw a huge gap between the pants and his shoes (but let’s be honest, I’m not expecting him to put on real pants anytime soon.) Clearly his body has been making good use of all the cereal, milk, and bread he’s been shoveling into it.

At least twice a day every day I get asked, “Eema, when are you going grocery shopping?” They usually follow that question immediately with “we need Cheerios [or blintzes, pasta sauce, roma tomatoes, or whatever it is they’re eating this week].” I’m this close to giving them my Instacart password and putting them in charge of the grocery orders. I’ll even set aside some time for them to do the shopping during school hours—it’s either Home Ec or Life Skills, right?

community · Just the two of us · Kids · love and marriage · waxing philosophical

Day 540: A love letter.

This is my favourite time of year.

Not for the insanity of the Jewish holidays (5 in one month!) or for the end of the summer break; no, I love it for the weather. Cool (but not too cold) at night and warm (but not too hot) during the day. It’s shorts-and-a-sweatshirt weather. The sky is clear and blue, the trees still have their leaves. It’s just a pleasure to be outside these days.

Actually, there are a lot of pleasures these days; More and more I’m noticing my feelings of contentment at odd times of the day and night. I’ll be reading in the back-porch hammock, or turning off lights someone left on in the library, or even emptying the dishwasher, and suddenly I’ll stop and think, “I love our life.”

I love Mr. December, of course, and I love how great a team we are. I love the house we’ve built together—seriously, I love this house so much—and the family we have together. I adore the kids and what’s more, I love seeing them together and I love watching them grow up. Our parents are all alive and well and living in the same city, and they’re a tremendous help and support to us. We have very good friends and neighbours.

We live in a neighbourhood that’s beautiful and safe, with public parks and a subway and shops nearby. We have biking paths, a community orchard, and a local farmers’ market.

I am, in short, lucky. Insanely, improbably so. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that life is completely unfair and often random; and it’s generally been unfair in my favour, which I appreciate every day.

There’s really nothing like this sense of great contentment, especially at this time of year. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going outside in my shorts and sweatshirt to sit in a hammock and sip some tea, and contemplate how very much I love this life.

Homeschool · Keepin' it real · waxing philosophical

Day 539: I don’t need to dig deep.

“Where’s Eema?” Mr. December asked the kids at 3:15.

“I’m right here,” I said from my office on the landing. “I’m just sitting here. I’m… spent. Don’t know why I’m so exhausted.”

R looked up from her colouring. “You did just teach us all day every day for a week,” she said generously. Which is all fine and good if it weren’t for the fact that, as I pointed out,

“This week had only two days of school!”

Today went beautifully. Everyone did their work, nobody screamed or protested, and we were done by 2:30. K and N finished all their history work that didn’t get done yesterday (including the assignment K was upset about, which she did with no further input from me) and everyone practiced their instruments. It doesn’t get much better than that, honestly. So why am I so drained?

In a similar vein, I had wondered why my hand still hurt so much after more than a week since the injury. Today my band-aid started to fall off, so I took it off and took a good look at my hand. That’s when I saw something that none of us had seen when I was first injured: two large slivers of wood protruding from the otherwise-healing wound. A small tug on each and they slid right out. They must have been in there pretty deep, because neither Mr. December nor the doctor saw them at all.

By the way, did you know that you don’t have to dig out slivers as soon as you get them? If you leave them, your body will gradually push them out without any poking, prodding, tweezers, or needles. Seriously, just let your body handle them.

I think I’ll take that philosophy to heart tonight. Yes, I’m feeling drained and exhausted, and it doesn’t seem justified. But if there’s a reason, I don’t need to dig deep for it; my body will handle it…as long as I get out of its way.

family fun · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · Kids

Day 538: You’ll forgive me.

It’s nice to be back.

I didn’t warn you ahead of time, but I decided to take a break from my computer over Rosh Hashana. Technically I could have posted last night after the holiday ended, but after two nights of getting into bed at 9 p.m., I found that I rather like going to bed early and didn’t feel like staying up to post. I’m sure you’ll forgive my absence.

It was back to the school routine today at our house. One striking difference between homeschooling this year and homeschooling last year is that this year, there are actually (a very few) places we can go if we want to leave the house for a while. Today we biked to the public library, where I taught the kids how to use the self-serve checkout, and biked back home via the park. Both library and park were deserted, of course—everyone was back in school today—and it was a beautiful day to be out, sunshowers notwithstanding. It was one of those days that makes me feel euphoric about our decision to homeschool.

The euphoria lasted until K looked at her history assignment. There was yelling, then crying, then hugging… then more yelling, at which point I walked away. I’m finding that K has very extreme initial reactions to things like this, and after the initial acknowledgement it’s more effective to give her some time for the big feelings to abate instead of pushing her to do the work immediately. Still, I’m hoping that by the end of this year she’ll no longer be frustrated by instructions to summarize or take notes. A mom can hope, can’t she?

Image Description: Two trees with bikes parked beneath them and a picnic table beyond the bikes. N is sitting at the picnic table, reading. A few feet away R is reading standing up.
Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Keepin' it real · Sartorial stuff

Day 535: I am not ready for this.

Shana Tova! A Happy and Sweet New Year to everyone who is celebrating tonight (and tomorrow, and the day after that.)

This time last year I was up at a cottage, making sugar cookies shaped like shofars and preparing a pretty simple festive meal for the six of us. Tonight I’m hosting our parents and Mr. D’s brother (all fully vaccinated,) and I’ve just put the finishing touches on a lemon cake for dessert. It’s in keeping with my theme for the year: When life gives you lemons, make something sweet out of it, but not lemonade—you can do something more creative than just lemonade with lemons, you know.

Because the Jewish calendar is an oddly modified lunar calendar, the holidays always stay in their respective seasons but move around a fair bit within them. Rosh Hashana is always in the fall, but sometimes it’s as early as September second, or as late as the beginning of October. This year it’s “early” which is a little bit laughable because it’s right on time—the first of Tishrei—but it’s coming right on the heels of summer, and it feels like it’s too soon. I’m not ready.

Take clothes, for example. It’s been so long since it actually mattered what anyone wore, and my kids have been growing like weeds. This means that I haven’t even thought about what they’d wear for the holidays this year. E and R are covered, thanks to the gorgeous dresses that they’ve been handed down from K; K has her dress from her bat mitzvah, which is a wrap dress that fits many sizes, so she’s got something; this leaves N.

N has always been resistant to clothes that aren’t soft and comfy. He does kind of like wearing a tie, but he’s not keen on dress pants. As a result, I haven’t bought him any, instead allowing him to wear a pair of plain black sweatpants for shabbat and other holidays with the family. He used to have button-up shirts that fit him but right now his tuxedo-print t-shirts are probably the fanciest shirts in his closet. I have no idea what he’s going to wear to the small, distanced family service we’re attending tomorrow. I’m chalking this up to COVID: as with so many other things, I’m having to relearn things (like the fact that clothes shopping for the holidays needs to happen in August) from what my kids call “the before times.”

Relearning and unlearning have been front and centre for me this year: a year of change and growth for me personally and for us as a family. I feel honoured that you have chosen to read along with our failures and our triumphs. May we all have a sweet and good year and share many laughs and frustrations together. Shana Tova.

Keepin' it real · Kids · parenting

Day 534: The youngest child and bedtime

It’s a cliché already: the child who is crying, “I don’t wanna go to bed! I’m not even tired!” while crying and yawning at the same time. E has been that child numerous times in the last few weeks and every single time she’s fallen asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. Still, she resists.

I kind of get it: she’s the youngest of four siblings, all of whom are between three-and-a-half and seven years older than she is. Their bedtime is appropriate for their ages, not for hers. Still, this house is buzzing with activity well past 7:30 every evening; of course she’d be afraid of missing out on something if she went to bed early.

The other day I found myself thinking fondly of how K, when she was E’s age, went to bed at 7 p.m. on school nights. Looking back, it’s kind of unbelievable—she went to bed at seven and we got to have three hours of grownups-only time? For real? But yes, it’s true. N and R, being four and three years old at the time, went to bed right alongside her. Those were the days.

When I tried to tell E this bit of historical trivia, she gaped at me for a moment and then laughed. “But that’s SO EARLY!” she giggled, “nobody goes to bed that early!”

Every night I look at her and think, tonight I have to put her to bed early. She needs an earlier bedtime. Poor kid, she probably doesn’t get enough sleep. And most nights I fail to do it. Bad parenting? Probably, although from what I’ve heard this issue isn’t unusual with the youngest child in a big family. She’ll catch up on sleep when she’s a teenager… Unless she’s like K, who wakes up nice and early. I have no idea how she does it.

I, on the other hand, am most definitely tired enough to go to bed at E’s bedtime. Then I get my second wind and have to convince myself that yes, bed is definitely where I need to be at 10 p.m. I’ve yet to make it to bed by 10 since the summer began, but maybe now that the sun is setting earlier I’ll be able to convince my inner six-year-old that she really is tired.