Day 880: Revolving Door of Kids

It’s hard to keep track of my kids these days. K is still at camp. N came home from camp and went to sleep over at his grandparents’ house. R came home; she and N switched places the next day. And then another switch, I think.

I’m not the only one who’s confused: two nights ago E suggested that we include R in our late-night snack. She went upstairs and flicked the attic light on and off (our signal to anyone in the attic that someone down here wants them) and we were both confused as to where R could be if she wasn’t up there. Not in this house, as it turns out. We’d both forgotten.

Yesterday N came home because he’d been invited to go out with some friends from camp today. This is huge: N has never made friends easily, and I’ve certainly never seen him go hang out with multiple friends at a time. I dropped him off just after noon today, and he came back at eight p.m., eyes bright with excitement when I asked how it was. I so hope this wasn’t a one-off.

(Note to self: think of something fun to do with N and his friends, and invite everyone out to do it.)

And now N and R have switched places again. R missed me, she says, but I think she missed the attic swing just as much. She’s spent more time on the swing than she has hugging me; I’ll let you draw the same conclusion I did.

Long story short: I’ve had only two children at home for the last three weeks, but barely ever the same two for more than a couple of days. K comes home on Thursday, then she and N leave for music camp on Sunday. By the time they come back, September will be just around the corner and with it, homeschooling all four kids. That’s going to be an adjustment.

bikes planes and automobiles · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 879: Time to Say Goodbye

We’ve been together for eleven years now; we’ve been through rain, snow, and blazing heat; you kept me and the kids safe everywhere we went; you gave me the great outdoors, sunny autumn days, and killer glutes. You’ve been amazing, and I love you—but I think it’s time to say goodbye.

It sounds harsh, but I don’t need you anymore. The kids are grown-up enough to go it alone now; When we go out, everyone can see that you’re a little empty inside. But I can’t even remember the last time we went out, you and I. April 2020? Since then, you’ve just kept on accepting everything I dump on you.

There must be someone out there who needs you the way I did; maybe someone with small children who will fill you with joy and goldfish crackers. I know you have a lot of years ahead of you, and I’d hate to see you waste them. I have to let you go so that you can live your best life.

I’ll miss you, my dear bakfiets. I’ll miss the way I could pile four kids into you and then take off for school. I’ll miss the joy of zipping along the street with you. I’ll miss your comfy saddle and your awesome cargo capacity. But we’ll always have the memories.

Thanks for everything.


Keepin' it real · what's cookin' · whine and cheese

Day 878: On the Edge

I finished making a small trial batch of jam this morning—it was delicious. So I sent Mr. December and the kids out to harvest more plums so I could make more jam. The kids all had excuses for not doing it, but Mr. December persevered and brought in a bin full of plums.

I knew it would take a long time to pit and chop the plums, so I settled at the table with a giant pile of fruit on my left, a measuring cup and empty bowl on my right, and in front of me, Outlander playing on my laptop. Two and a half episodes later, I had five liters of sliced plums in front of me, sticky elbows, and tears in my eyes (season 2 episode 7 is a tearjerker. Ye’ve been warned.)

I poured the plums and sugar into the biggest pot I have; they came almost to the top. Meh, I thought to myself, they probably won’t boil over. I’ll live on the edge.

They boiled over, of course. And they probably will again tomorrow, since I’m supposed to boil and cool this jam four times before canning it.

A large soup pot with a foamy, lumpy yellow substance in it right up to the rim. It has boiled over and there are plums and syrup on the stovetop and the counter.

In happy news, my brother-in-law walked in today and asked, “Does anybody want my old phone? It’s an iPhone 8.”

“I LOVE YOU!” I shouted and limped down the stairs.

You may be as appalled as my kids are to learn that I’m using an iPhone SE… first generation. As in the one that came in between the 5 and 6 (I hear there’s now an iPhone 13.) I can never quite justify to myself getting a new phone. Mine works. But a better camera is a draw, and you can’t beat free.

I probably should have asked him if the phone is unlocked, but I guess we’ll find out when I insert the SIM card.

Update: my head feels fine, so no after-effects of yesterday’s frisbee to the head. My knee is not so lucky, having been pulled in some way when I launched myself into bed last night. Ow.

Keepin' it real · whine and cheese

Day 877: Go ahead, laugh.

Just to give you a little timeline recap here:

October 2018: Really nasty ear infection keeps me in bed for nearly a month.

December 2018: Terrible back pain sidelines me for a couple of weeks; during this time a medicinal marijuana gummy causes me to lock myself in the bedroom until I come down, because I don’t want the kids to be alarmed at how I’m acting. (Crazy. I’m laughing at absolutely nothing. It’s not pretty.)

January 2019: As my back is slowly improving, I get back into dance. At one rehearsal I take a blow to the head; the resulting concussion has me sidelined for months.

February 2019: I’m putting on my shoes when a violin case, slung over someone’s shoulder, hits me in the head—in the same spot as the original concussive blow.

May 2020: A tree branch falls on my head in my own backyard. Ouch.

June 2022: I hyperextend my knee while playing on the trampoline with E and am consequently sidelined from most of my summer activities.

So that’s the history we’re looking at when I tell you to go ahead and laugh when you hear the latest:

I got hit in the head with a frisbee at Mr. December’s company picnic today. I wasn’t playing frisbee, I didn’t walk into the middle of a frisbee game… I was just standing there, talking with some of my husband’s coworkers, when I felt a dull thud at the back of my head and saw the frisbee fall to the ground.

After a moment of mild alarm, and a sigh shared between us, Mr. December and I could only laugh.

“What are the chances?” was his comment.

Pretty much 100%. If someone was going to get hit by the frisbee, it would be me. Obviously.

Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure I’m fine. A bit of a headache (not where I got hit today, but where I got hit in 2019,) but otherwise no hint of a concussion or anything serious or sinister.

whine and cheese

Day 876: Ow!

I’m lucky, I know. I have access to an excellent physiotherapy facility and insurance that helps pay for some of it. I’ve been doing physiotherapy twice a week; and while my range of motion is getting better, and my knee is less wobbly than it was, the pain is (paradoxically) getting worse.

I don’t have an explanation, other than to say that my physiotherapist recently started massaging various knee-adjacent parts of my leg, and she really digs in deep. We’ll be having a lovely chat, her elbow two inches deep in my hamstring, when I’ll suddenly interrupt the conversation with “OW!”

Now, the pain during physio sessions is somewhat expected, and I don’t mind gritting my teeth for the sake of a full recovery; but the last two sessions, I’ve been in pain for the rest of the day. Today it was bad enough to be distracting.

“Maybe you should keep off it,” Mr. December suggested. It’s as good an idea as any—I could maybe use the time to do something productive, like, I don’t know… homeschool planning? We start in less than a month and I’ve done nothing.

gardening · what's cookin'

Day 875: Plum Preserves and Potential Prunes

Today we took a huge tub of plums to our homeschool meet-up and gave them away. Yesterday Mum stopped by and took some to give to her physiotherapist, her furniture refinisher, and one of my aunties. The day before that, we brought some to R’s orthodontist, and the day before that we dropped some off at our neighbours’ houses.

Our plum tree is still laden with fruit. It’s so heavy that the branches are touching the ground. It’s time to take drastic action.

Our oven has a “drying” setting, which I’ve never actually used; today I decided to try making prunes. There are only so many plums a person can eat, but my kids will devour prunes like they’re going out of style. So this morning I picked some fairly small plums, washed them, spread them out on a couple of upside-down cooling racks, and turned the oven on to “dry 140F.” I just checked them and they’re not done by any means, but they’re already starting to shrivel. Hopefully by tomorrow morning they’ll be done.

Plums in the oven before and after 7 hours of a drying cycle.

I’m also making a small batch of plum jam, just to see if we like it. A friend from the community orchard said that she made a syrup to put on her porridge; I might try that next.

In the meantime… anybody want plums?

Keepin' it real · Kids · well *I* think it's funny... · whine and cheese

Day 873: I Got A Trophy?

No, there’s no trophy. I’ve won no prize. In fact, I’ve lost… muscle mass.

Cartoon drawing of a gold trophy. The plaque on its base reads "Biggest Loser... of muscle."

That’s right, I’ve got atrophy. Not a trophy. (Kids, take note: proper spacing between words is important. So is proofreading.)

Today at physiotherapy I learned that traumatic knee injuries cause the brain to send fewer electrical signals to the quadriceps muscle (I kind of want to know why, but I need to go to sleep early tonight—so no rabbit holes for me,) and as a result, there’s muscle loss. It’s visible enough that I was slightly alarmed when my physio pointed it out.

A cursory Googling tells me that this kind of atrophy won’t be reversed by simply exercising the muscle. I’m guessing that’s why I spend half of my physio session with electrodes stuck to my leg, doing squat presses in time with intermittent electric shocks that make my quads contract.

And I thought my knee brace was loose because it had stretched somehow. Nope, my leg really is smaller.

In other news, the kids are big enough to do actual housework now—E took out the garbage, recycling, and compost; N vacuumed the floors (badly, though); R took care of the dishwasher. Of course, they also make 90% of the mess around here. I miss the clean and quiet of my house when I had just one child (while the others were at camp.) I missed the kids more, though, so I guess I’ll keep ’em.

diet recovery · Keepin' it real · waxing philosophical · weight loss

Day 872: Your body isn’t wrong. Your clothes are.

Between the period dramas I’ve watched, all the historical fiction I’ve read, and the videos I’ve viewed with R about getting dressed in centuries past, I’ve stumbled on an astonishing realization: for much of history, women’s clothes were highly adjustable.

It makes sense, when one considers that most women probably only had a few dresses, and they weren’t buying new styles every year, either. If women were to wear the same few dresses for years on end, they’d better accommodate pregnancy, nursing, menopause, and everything else that causes women’s bodies to shift and change through the years. Suddenly all those lace-up bodices and full skirts with ties make so much sense, don’t they?

To some degree, I think we’ve gone backward in clothing design. Most of the clothes available to us are made to fit one size and one shape. Those pants may fit beautifully when you buy them, but next week when you’ve got PMS bloat going on? Not so much. And after pregnancy, your body doesn’t necessarily revert to its previous shape even if you’ve somehow lost all the “baby weight”. Things settle differently, and the clothes don’t look the same.

I thought about this a lot last week as I was getting dressed in my favourite Roots sweatpants ($15 at Value Village, did I mention?) and a stretchy t-shirt. These clothes have been with me for four years now, and they’ve never been uncomfortable, though my body has certainly shrunk and grown in that time. I could try to squeeze myself into my jeans—and spend the whole day feeling uncomfortable—but why? Just to perpetuate our society’s denial that it’s normal for bodies to change for a myriad of reasons? No, thank you.

Think about how much time I see and hear people devoting to the idea of “getting back your body” after a baby or dieting to fit into a particular dress; doesn’t it all seem a bit ridiculous? Our bodies do these marvellous things like protecting us from famine, building muscle mass, creating life, nourishing our babies… and we reciprocate by punishing ourselves mentally or physically until we can wear the same clothes we did five years ago.

Our bodies were made by millions of years of evolution… or a divine creator… or both. The clothes we feel like we have to fit into? Those were made by people—people who make money when you need a whole new wardrobe in a different size. Which is more likely to be wrong, d’you think: God (or nature)? Or the fashion industry?

gardening · Keepin' it real · whine and cheese

Day 871: It’s Joey o’clock!

There’s a guy on our street who does lawn care; he used to do ours. Joey is meticulous and takes pride in his work, which is basically why we fired him ten years ago—we felt he was too expensive, and asked him just to run the lawn mower over our grass and not worry about any of the trimming, blowing, or sweeping; he refused on grounds that he has standards.

I lose track of the days sometimes: homeschooling (and travel) means that we have very few externally-imposed routines of weekdays and weekends (aside from Shabbat.) Still, there’s one event from the outside world that anchors the week for me. It also aggravates the heck out of me, coming as it does around dinnertime every Sunday. I’ll be sitting peacefully in the hammock when I hear an engine rev and smell gasoline fumes. “Oh,” I’ll say, looking up, “is it Joey o’clock already?”

a cartoon clock face with the small hand on 5 and the big hand on 12. Instead of the numbers 4, 5, and 6, there's a cartoon guy with a loud leaf blower.

Joey o’clock stinks—I don’t mean that metaphorically. His lawnmower, trimmer, and blower are all gas-powered; they produce smelly fumes and about 85 decibels of noise. And given that Sunday afternoons and evenings are prime sitting-in-the-backyard and having-a-barbecue time, I have plenty of reasons to hate it.

Sadly, gas-powered mower bans and no-mow lawns haven’t yet caught on in this corner of the city; a pristine, weedless, clipping-free yard is still de rigeur, so there’s nothing I can do about Joey o-clock… for now. Like the chapel bells at the Lutheran seminary that woke me up every morning in fourth year university, it’s just another (annoying) reminder of the passage of time.

diet recovery · waxing philosophical · weight loss

Day 870: Never Say Die(t)

I’m in diet recovery. My regular readers probably know that much from what I wrote about the process last summer. I haven’t updated you in a while, though, and I’m sure at least a few of you are curious about how it’s going. This post is for you (and for me, of course.)

Last summer my goal was to lift all restrictions on what and when I ate, and to eat publicly (instead of holing up in the library with the door closed so nobody would see me with my ice cream.) It was wonderful and nerve-wracking at the same time: I feared that without “rules” about what I should or shouldn’t eat, I’d have to keep buying new (bigger) clothes, among other issues.

It’s been about a year since I gave myself permission to eat whatever and whenever I want; a year since I started working on acceptance of the fact that I’m not skinny and will never be, barring starvation (or something very close to it); a year since I finally accepted that how I look in pictures is how people see me, and I just need to get used to it and stop posing in a way that I think makes me look thinner. It’s been a year since I started to entertain the idea that Mr. December wasn’t lying to me every time he said something appreciative about my body; a year since the first time I wore a bikini in public; a year since the last time I stepped on a scale.

So what has changed in that year? I’m happier, that’s what.

I’ve stopped putting myself down. Do you realize how hard it is to be happy when someone’s constantly telling you that your body is unacceptable, and that you’d better get it under control? It’s doubly bad when that someone is yourself. It’s a habit that I’ve given up, to my great benefit.

I’ve really enjoyed my food. I’ve also stopped bingeing. I don’t eat something unless I actually want it. This is a huge change from before, when I’d eat any junk food we had because it wasn’t normally something I “allowed” myself.

Most importantly:

I’ve given up the illusion of control over my body size. After a year of observing my body, I’ve learned that it changes from day to day; weight comes on and goes off, depending on what’s happening in my life and how active I’ve been able to be. What hasn’t happened is a continuous expansion of my waistline (or anything else.) I have finally accepted that my body knows what it’s doing (far more than I do, anyway, given that I’m 42 and the body’s finely tuned systems have evolved over millions of years.) Now, instead of admonishing or praising myself for changes to my body size, I just notice the changes: Huh. That’s interesting. Good to know. Sometimes I even take a moment or three to be thankful that I have a body that takes care of me (ensuring that I remain famine-resistant, for example.)

Some of you might be reading this and thinking, “But it’s not healthy to be fat!” Stop right there. You’re concern-trolling, and it’s neither appreciated nor helpful. The bottom line is that diets don’t work in the long run, and people who diet repeatedly (yo-yo dieting or weight cycling) have more health problems and worse outcomes than people who were fat and didn’t try to lose weight. I can’t change my body for a new one even if I want to—and believe me, I’d love to, given my weak joints, asthma, and fibromyalgia—so there’s no point in making delusional (and self-harming) efforts to that end.

I still have some work to do. I still pay more attention to my body size and shape than I think is warranted—I had a hard time deciding to attend a social event with my dance group, because I’ve gained so much weight since I last danced—But I’ve come a long, long way from where I started more than a year ago, and I’m proud of that.