Archive for December, 2011

December 30, 2011

K’s camping party!

by Decemberbaby

I’m so tired as to be incoherent right now, so I’m just posting a slideshow for now. After Shabbat I’ll write a bit about how it went. Shabbat Shalom!

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December 28, 2011

Work-in-Progress Wednesday: Birthday party edition

by Decemberbaby

And so Hannukah is over and K’s party is tomorrow. Down came the window clings and hannukiyot, away went the furniture, and up went a couple of tents. I’ve actually been quite productive this week – I culled and organized R’s clothes and decluttered the kitchen counter (although it promptly got re-cluttered).

Completed: party giveaways

I finally made it to the bulk warehouse and found individually-wrapped chocolate bars, so I was able to sit down and make up little s’mores packets. The cellophane bags were in my Purim box (similar to my Hannukah box, but for Purim stuff) – I think I used them for Mishloach Manot one year. And the label… well, I have to say that sewing is my new favourite way to stick paper together. In this case, the stitching is holding the bag closed as well as attaching the tag.

I spent some time today opening up the flashlights to remove the little film that keeps them from sucking their batteries dry while in the package. Then I experimented with the alphabet stickers and found that they were actually a bit tricky to handle without them rolling up and losing their stickiness. If they’re difficult for me I’m willing to bet that the kids will also have trouble with them, so I decided to just label all the flashlights tonight.

No pics tonight – you’ll have to check back tomorrow night or Friday for pictures of the party.

Completed: get everybody healthy

I can’t honestly say that any of it was my doing, but we all seem to be healthy at the moment (knock wood). Kleenex consumption has seen a 300% reduction since two weeks ago. Hooray!

Still in progress: scavenger hunt objects

I have the feathers and the bears, but I still need to chop down some ornamental grass from the backyard and buy some mushrooms from the grocery store… and then I have to hide everything in the living room.

I went out with the kids and some friends to find pinecones and sticks. Mission accomplished. Even better, we went out in the bakfiets – me with FOUR kids in the bike. It was very awesome. Surprisingly, it wasn’t any more difficult to ride with four kids than with two. I love my bakfiets!

There are four - count 'em, four - children in the bike. Seriously, this bike is made of awesome!

In Progress: camping cake!

K’s birthday cake is baked, I just need to decorate it. In keeping with the camping theme I’ll be using brown sugar and oreo crumbs as dirt (as long as oreo crumbs are pareve: I’d better check), flake bars as logs around the fire pit, candy rocks for the fire pit, pretzel sticks for the firewood and gummies for the flames. I’m also going to make a tent out of bamboo skewers and fabric. I should probably write something on it, too.

In Progress: a kippah for K

I made N an adorable kippah last week (Lisaleh mentioned it on her blog) and K immediately wanted it (of course). I pointed out that I made it specifically for N, but that I’d be happy to make one for her. She keeps asking when that’s going to happen, so I’d better do it this week.

So… what are you working on?

December 27, 2011

Haikus from our home, on Hannukah.

by Decemberbaby

Despite popular

culture, kids don’t beg for gifts.

A Hannukah win!


Deep fried, laced with crack,

the perfect Hannukah treat:

Krispy Kreme doughnuts.


Beeswax candles spark

a toddler’s wonder. “How can I

touch that flaming thing?”


Cholesterol: up

fifty percent. Admit it,

latkes are worth it.


Dreidel, dreidel, spin.

Maybe if I lose it will

end this boring game.


Say, what happened there?

A great miracle: some oil

burned a long, long time.


The miracle of

oil is just the most correct,



Eight crazy nights? Done.

Now we can reinstate our

usual bedtime.


December 26, 2011

Boxing Day

by Decemberbaby

Today we woke up to the realization that we had no plan for the day. Mr. December and I were exhausted. K and N were ready for some action. Days like this are the reason I’m glad we have a membership at the science centre. Some googling revealed that there was a special planetarium show just for little kids, so off we went.

As we left the science centre three hours later, Mr. December and I disagreed on which route to take. I thought the highway would be nice and fast. He felt that the highway would be backed up with Boxing Day shoppers and that we should just take city streets all the way home. I was at the wheel, so I decided. Even if tons of people were going to the mall, how bad could traffic really be? And if it was as bad as Mr. December predicted, I was going to have to see it to believe it.

It was bad, y’all. Even worse than Mr. December thought.

The highway was backed up for about five kilometres. Five kilometres of stop-and-go traffic, barely moving at all. I joked that we were all waiting for one guy in the Yorkdale parking lot to finish loading his purchases and move his car so that one person could park and we could all move ahead ten feet. At the time it was a joke; thirty minutes later, still waiting, it seemed a lot less funny and a lot more plausible.

We were soon able to get to our exit, and as we peeled away from the masses of cars we got a good look at the rest of the situation. Had we wanted to go to the mall we would have probably waited another thirty minutes to actually get to the parking lot. As we passed the mall itself, the LED sign out front declared the state of the various parking lots: FULL. FULL. 6 spots. FULL.

I don’t understand what makes people want to go to the mall on Boxing Day. It’s a total zoo. Besides, didn’t everyone just get piles of gifts for Christmas? What more do people need?

Probably not much. I remember when K was about 2 years old I began to correct her when she said she “needed” something like a cookie, a trip to the park, a new shirt, etc. I was explicit about the difference between “need” and “want”. She now uses those two verbs appropriately, which is impressive given how many adults seem to have trouble telling the difference. At the risk of being flamed, I’m going to suggest that nobody actually needs a flat-panel LCD television. Probably most of the people at the mall don’t need new clothes either, but they sure want them – must keep up with the latest styles! And the retail industry knows this.

It’s amazing how a day that used to be about wealthy landowners taking boxes of gifts and necessities to their tenants and poorer neighbours has been turned into a push to buy more stuff. Heaven knows that if left to their own devices most people wouldn’t feel the need to go shopping again after the gift-buying frenzy leading up to Christmas, but wave a 50% discount in their faces and suddenly all kinds of “needs” crop up, needs dire enough to make folks want to spend two hours sitting in traffic and trying to find a parking spot, heedless of the value of their time and not thinking that those are two hours of their lives they won’t get back.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all went back to the original meaning of Boxing Day? Everyone could load up a box with things for a needy individual or family – toiletries; warm hats, gloves, and coats for the winter; some food; a toy or two for the children – and deliver it in person. Then we could all come back to our warm and cozy homes filled with all the things we need (and most of the things we want), and get on with enjoying the day off work. I’d even be willing to sit in traffic for that kind of Boxing Day.

In the meantime, today’s traffic jam taught me something important: when the zombie apocalypse comes and we all need to flee the city, don’t drive – take the bakfiets!


December 25, 2011

Quick ‘n’ dirty sewing project: Sox box!

by Decemberbaby

It all started while I was culling R’s clothes and organizing her drawers. The socks were all mixed up, hers and N’s, and I needed some kind of boxes or dividers, so of course I zipped down to my craft room and stitched up a couple of very simple fabric boxes. This project was so “quick and dirty” that I didn’t even bother changing the thread on the machine. I just grabbed some white denim, plugged in my iron, and started working. I turned out two boxes (no pattern, just making it up) in about 40 minutes.

Later on, while planning some montessori-type activities for N, I decided I needed some solid-coloured trays for a sorting task. Once again I went downstairs. This time I made a two-tone box. Here it is next to one of the originals:

Don’t you want one? Don’t let the name fool you; they’re not just for socks. I can picture them on a front-hall table holding keys and a cellphone; as a nice tray for a child’s hairbrush and accessories; you could make these long and thin and sew a few together to make a cutlery tray, or make a larger one to use as a bread basket.

The beauty of these is that they take almost no time to make, and very little fabric. You have a little fabric and 25 minutes, don’t you? Let’s get started:

Cut your fabric. I recommend using at least one heavy fabric (denim, canvas, or rigid felt) to help give your box structure.

The size of square (or rectangle) you need can be determined by this formula:

desired length + (desired height x 2) = length

desired width + (desired height x 2) = width

So for my 5×5″ box, I cut a 9 inch by 9 inch square. Two of them, actually.


Fold the sides over. If you want a 3-inch height, fold three inches of fabric over on each side. When folded, iron it so that the creases are visible. Open the folds.



Taking one corner, fold it so that the two creases are together and are folded the same way.




Sew a straight seam along the crease. Trim off the excess fabric. If your fabric is prone to fraying you may want to serge or sew a zigzag stitch along the edge.

Repeat until all four corners are sewn. It should look like this, but without the corner loops:



To add structure to your box (and also to make it look cool) fold over each side and sew a straight seam about 1/16 of an inch from the fold.




Fold over the top edges of the fabric and sew a zigzag stitch all around. Since I plan to fold the edge over again to make a tray with a very small lip, I didn’t bother making the edge look nice.

Fold the top edge over once more, and enjoy your cute new box!




December 23, 2011

Shabbat Shalom

by Decemberbaby

I seem to have acquired a bunch of new readers very recently, so for their sake I’ll be explicit about my blogging habits: I don’t blog on Shabbos.

(Was anybody else reminded of John Goodman in The Big Lebowski when I said that just now?)

I don’t know if I’ll get back to the blog tomorrow night – I may not post again until Sunday.

‘Til then, I’ll leave you with this picture – K and I realized that nobody had taken care of flowers for the table, and we weren’t about to go out and buy some, so we made these. Shabbat Shalom.

(sorry ’bout the blurriness. I had a better pic, but WordPress doesn’t want it for some reason.)

December 23, 2011

Hannukah “play”, Montessori-style

by Decemberbaby

I have always been in favour of what I call “child labour” (letting children do actual household tasks) and have often viewed most toys as superfluous, unnecessary, and even insulting to children’s abilities and intelligence. Recently, though, I’ve come to see how having one child in a Montessori school has affected my parenting decisions for the other children at home. Here’s the most recent example:

It’s Hannukah (as we all know by now), and while perusing our local Jewish newspaper I saw an ad for a sale on a wooden hannukah playset. It looks like this:

I considered buying one. I thought that N would definitely love putting the candles into the menorah over and over again, and he might actually like to spin the dreidel. I went so far as to put “buy wooden hannukah set” on my to-do list. Then I laughed at myself, because the Montessori parent in me knows that this is a ridiculously unnecessary toy.

N wants to put candles into a menorah? Good. Let him practice with real candles and a real (metal, unbreakable) menorah. Does he want to hold and look at a dreidel? Great. I happen to have a large wooden dreidel (too big to be a choking hazard to anyone) that he can hold and play with. And what use is wooden hannukah gelt? It’s not shiny like the real thing, and you can’t eat it. No, better to give him one or two pieces of real gelt to look at, and later show him how to unwrap it and let him taste the chocolate. As for the wooden latkes and frying pan, why would he need those when he’s allowed to help me wash potatoes, mix the batter, and eat actual latkes?

This is a very real, concrete example of the Montessori attitude towards pretend play. In Montessori, children don’t have to pretend to work in a kitchen, or to plant a garden, or put candles in the menorah. They don’t have to pretend, because they can really do it. They might want to repeat the task (put candles in, take them out, examine them, put them in, take them out…). They might not do it with great skill. But they will do the task over and over again until they have mastered it. No toys, just real objects and tools that are appropriately sized for children’s hands.

As for N, this morning he pointed at the menorah and put his hands over his face, imitating the way we cover our eyes when lighting shabbat candles (we don’t cover our eyes for hannukah candles, but I suppose candles are candles, at this age).

“Do you want to practice lighting hannukah candles?” I asked, and in response he put his hands over his face again and then peeked out, smiling.

I gave him a box of candles and set him up on the window seat so that he could reach the menorah on the windowsill. He picked up one piece of the menorah (it comes apart) and tried to walk away with it. “N,” I said, “the hannukiah stays here so that everyone can see it when we light the candles.” He put the piece back. Then he reached for the candles and began to place one in each holder. When all of the holders were full, he covered his face and giggled.

N repeated the task over and over again for about half an hour. Some candles got broken, but gradually he learned to be more gentle with them. The focus and pride on his face was an excellent reminder that, given the tools and the opportunity, our children will master the tasks that make up our lives, no toys required.







December 21, 2011

Work-in-Progress Wednesday – Hanukkah edition

by Decemberbaby

Hmm, I hit *publish* on that last post a bit too soon. Please excuse the grammatical inconsistencies. I know I should have kept the story in either the present tense or the past. I’d edit it, but I hate doing edits because then my blog followers get another email saying that there has been an update, and I don’t want to annoy anyone with too many updates. You can see the bind I’m in.

All that aside, it’s time to see how I’m doing with my projects.

Still in progress: party giveaways

I found multipack flashlights at the big-box home improvement store – 8 for $12. I can live with that. I also bought some alphabet stickers (not from that store) so that the kids can personalize their flashlights.

I’ve bought some ingredients for the s’mores packets, but I’d still prefer a small, individually-wrapped chocolate bar to some chocolate chips, so I can’t say that this project is done. It will be complete by next week, though, seeing as the party is a week from tomorrow!

Still in progress: get everyone healthy

I still have a cough, exacerbated by the fact that R doesn’t let me sleep much. N’s cough is still there, but slowly getting better. K’s nose is runny and she’s in a foul mood. R’s cough sounds dry now, which I think is a good development. Mr. December is as healthy as a horse. My commitment this week is to take bedtime very, very seriously so that the kids can get enough rest to get well. It’s difficult because it’s hannukah and we want them to be awake to light candles together with us, but it’s for the greater good.

In progress: scavenger hunt objects

This week I’m going to take K for a walk on the nearby nature trail. We need to pick up some pinecones and sticks to hide around the house for the scavenger hunt.

That’s a wrap. Anybody else doing something this week?

December 21, 2011

It’s not about obedience… but it kind of is.

by Decemberbaby

Several years ago, I was having a discussion with our aunt about discipline in childrearing, and pointed out that raising children isn’t all about obedience. I claimed that it was about raising a human being who can function well in the world and improve his or her community.

Now that we’re some major oppositional behaviour from K, I’m starting to think that a little obedience might be nice. I’m tired of everything being a struggle, of having to repeat myself many times, of giving consequences that will result in more opposition.

Example: K and I have discussed the danger inherent in pouring water onto the bathroom floor. She has even experienced the consequences of the slippery floor herself. And yet, she began pouring water from her bath onto the floor, using the tub toys.

I dealt a consequence: No tub toys for the next week of baths.

K acted to demonstrate her defiance by spitting water onto the floor from her bath. I informed her that clearly she can’t handle the responsibility of a bath right now, so she’ll take showers for a little while and then she can try baths again in a week.

When the time for the first shower comes, K cries, screams, and refuses to get in. At first, I patiently offer her sunglasses so that she won’t get water and soap in her eyes. She refuses and continues screaming. I’m at a loss. I ask nicely. I remind her that showers are quick and she’ll soon be done. I ask her to make eye contact with me and explain why she won’t shower. “Well…” she starts (and it sounds like “way-ull”) “… um, I don’t want to shower because, well… um…”

I point out to her that if she wastes her time arguing, she’ll still have to take a shower later and it will encroach on her time to play with daddy. I say, “I need to go make dinner. You let me know when you’re ready to shower. Take as long as you want, but remember that you may only play with daddy when you have showered.” I leave the room. She follows me, screeching like a banshee and then saying, “I’m trying to scare you!” I’m torn between her need to be taken seriously and my need to say, “keep trying.”

Eventually Mr. December comes home. He needs to shower and head out to a volunteer meeting. K finally agrees to hop into the shower with him, as long as she doesn’t have to wash her hair. “I’m afraid of getting water in my eyes,” she moaned pitifully. He turned to me and asked, “Do we have some goggles?” As if I hadn’t offered her goggles in the first five minutes of this whole debacle.

And so it goes. I see so many things wrong with this situation, but I’m really not sure how to fix it. I’m turning to you, my intrepid readers. What would you do? What problems to you see in this situation? Do you have a suggestion?



Facebook friends, please comment here so that your comments and suggestions are always tied to the original post. after a few weeks the facebook conversation is so many pages back, it’s as good as gone. Please comment on the blog if at all possible! Thanks.

December 20, 2011

“Mummy, where do latkes come from?”

by Decemberbaby

Well, when a potato and an onion that we harvest from the garden love each other very much…

They want to be as close together as possible. So they jump through the food processor and into the bowl, where we mix them up up until they can’t be separated:

Then they usually like to take a bath together in some hot olive oil…

And then they’re together for always.

Now let’s eat!

Happy Chanuka from all of us at Sweet & Crunchy with a Jewy Centre!