Apathy · family fun · gardening · water you paddling?

Day 464: Bowl of Cherries

It must be summer.

This morning I saw a post on our neighbourhood FaceBook page about a lemonade stand happening today. It was just around the corner from us, so we went armed with loonies and toonies. It was even better than advertised: they had home-baked oatmeal-butterscotch cookies. I left the house with $20 and came back with $5. Money well spent, I tell you. Besides, lemonade stands are a great way to meet the neighbours.

I was feeling kind of “meh” today. No particular reason, just so. But I knew that I’d feel more energized if I went out and did something, and it was too hot to do anything that didn’t involve cold water, so I suggested an evening trip to the beach. Everyone but E said, “meh” and turned back to their devices, so I had a lovely couple of hours with E, kayaking and swimming in Lake Ontario.

When we got home I grabbed a container and went outside to the cherry tree. This tree has given us almost no fruit for the past six years; this year, for reasons unknown, it’s full of cherries. E helped me deliver a small container of them to our across-the-street neighbour, who’s been all alone since his wife died three years ago.

And now I’m sitting on our back porch. The warm breeze is playing with my hair and the sky is darkening. Just inside the door there are dozens of things for me to do, problems to solve, children to glue to their beds so they actually go to sleep… but out here there’s nothing but warmth and contentment, and a bowl of cherries.

Image Description: Cherries in a plastic container.
Apathy · education · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · mental health

Day 308: The January Slump

Apparently I’m a day late on this, because yesterday was “Blue Monday”—the most depressing day of the year. Or something like that. I wasn’t paying attention.

I figured that I’ve been feeling out of sorts because the lack of sunlight triggers my SAD. I assumed that I was losing some of my homeschooling mojo because it’s just too hard to educate my own kids day after day. Then I just happened to see a post in a homeschooling forum that made me feel a whole lot better: a new homeschooler asking why she’s so unmotivated to do the homeschool thing.

Almost instantly responses started pouring in. They were all some variation on “This happens every January and February. Veteran homeschoolers call it the January slump.” Some people revealed that every January they become dissatisfied with their curriculum that was so awesome just a few weeks ago; others confided that they don’t do much schooling in January because everyone is just in a funk.

On a related note, I switched our writing curriculum last week. Instead of the “expose your kids to the joy of writing!” approach that demanded so much of my presence and energy, I’ve returned to the workbook-based program where I assign lessons and the kids complete them. It even helpfully breaks up a school year’s worth of work into thirty-six weeks, and each week into five days. Right now I don’t even want to check their work every day, so I’ve assigned them one week’s worth of lessons to be turned in on Friday. Problem solved.

Our social studies curriculum is pretty neat, but I’m not feeling the energy right now; so for the next little while I think we’ll be watching Canada: A People’s History. It’s got nineteen episodes that begin in prehistoric times and end in 1990 or so. I think that should cover us for a while, thank goodness. Sitting on the couch watching a documentary is my speed right about now. Anyhow, I think there’s an excellent chance they’ll remember the documentary better than the discussions we were having before.

Looking at the last two paragraphs I feel like I’m on “lazy homeschooler” mode. That’s okay, though, because if homeschool parents were unionized, it would be union policy to slack off at this time of year. Everybody’s doing it.

Apathy · Keepin' it real · Kids · mental health · parenting · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day 297: Get Outside

I’m not the only one in this family feeling the strain, and it’s really starting to show. A few nights ago I asked E to get ready for bed; she dug in her heels and refused, then began to cry. Eventually she calmed down and when I asked her what happened, she answered tearfully, “You know, Eema, I’ve just had a really stressful day.” Not what you want to hear from your six-year-old.

Last night we were reading in bed after tucking in all the kids. After knocking on our door, R came in and jumped onto our bed for a hug. She does this from time to time, coming in for a few hugs and then going to bed. Last night was different, though: at one point she started to cry, but couldn’t (or wouldn’t) tell me what was bothering her. She ended up sleeping on a mattress on our bedroom floor.

N begged me to stay with him until he fell asleep last night, but I suspect that has more to do with Mr. December’s choice of movie—Contagion—to watch with N and K than it does with any kind of lockdown-related angst.

And K… well, she’s a teenager now, which means emotional outbursts are par for the course. Come to think of it, outbursts have been par for the course for a long time with her: ADHD will do that. Bottom line: I don’t know where “normal” teenage reactions end and “crisis” reactions to COVID restrictions begin.

We forced the kids outside today. The sun was shining and it was above zero. Still, the kids resisted. They begged us to let them keep playing Roblox. They insisted they weren’t going anywhere. E cried in frustration. I don’t remember how we did it, but we somehow got all of them outside. Some of us went for a walk, others played on the trampoline and swings, and still others sat on the porch, reading; but we all got outside, and it did us good.

We should be getting everyone outside every day, rain or shine, but it’s just so difficult to get the kids to do it that on my more depressive days I can’t summon the strength of will to outlast them. I hope that one of these days they’ll realize how much better they feel when they have some outdoor time, but I’m not holding my breath. Maybe I’ll just make screen time contingent on having spent a certain amount of time outside.

After dinner tonight R came to me and asked permission to play on the computer again. I said no. She nagged, she begged, she cried. I stood firm. It was a rough half-hour, but as I type she’s sitting on the floor with a book while the Secret Garden Broadway cast recording plays. N is reading too, and E is inventing a game with random small objects on the coffee table. I haven’t heard “Can I play Among Us?” in at least an hour.

I wonder what life would look like in our house if I just took away the computers. I don’t know if I have the fortitude right now to withstand the whining and nagging that would surely ensue, but it’s very tempting.

Apathy · Fibro Flares · mental health · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day 296: Beyond Caring.

K’s bat mitzvah is in one week, and because of COVID stuff I’m leading the service. I’m not ready.

My kids are spending way too much time on screens every single day.

My tween’s attitude can poison an entire homeschool lesson for everyone involved, and this afternoon it did.

I owe an e-mail to the landscape designer. It’s only about four months overdue.

I’ve been bringing the mail inside, but haven’t opened any in months.

I’ve gained more weight, again.

My legs have been hurting for two weeks straight.

Our Premier made vague reference to even tighter restrictions than the current lockdown.

It’s been too long since I last hugged my parents.

I want to get outside with the kids everyday but they fight me every step of the way, and these days I don’t have the fortitude to make them; they spend entire days without going outside.

I think I’m getting cabin fever. I want to go somewhere but that’s obviously not going to happen anytime soon.

I want the sun to come back.

I want to not be depressed.

Sorry, folks. This is all I’ve got right now. Don’t worry, it’ll pass.

Shabbat Shalom.

Apathy · blogging · DIY · education · Kids · mental health · parenting · snarky · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day 32: Please stop talking to me.

Disclaimer: This is a complaint-filled post. If you are “triggered” by privileged people complaining about their lives even though they have it better than 99% of the population, then you misunderstand the nature of my blog. Please go somewhere else. 

Y’all, I’m tired. Like, soul-weary tired. I can’t even. What’s the point? What is there to look forward to? Our well-planned family trip to the UK is probably not going to happen. K’s bat mitzvah is in January, but we don’t really know what the world will look like this January. Will a bat mitzvah with all our friends and family even be possible?

And there are people around me. All. The. Time. Even when I go to the bathroom, I’ve got people pounding down my door and insisting that it’s an emergency.

“What’s the emergency?” I bark at the kid who managed to pick the lock.

“I think my finger looks bruised.” Says the kid, oblivious to the fact that my pants are around my ankles and I’m holding a wad of toilet paper.

“Get. Out.” I growl.

“Can I have a hug?” The kid asks, coming towards me with outstretched arms.

This is not a one time occurrence. This conversation or one very much like it happens at least five times a week. Maybe I should post a flow chart on my bathroom door:

I need eema flow chart

You know, I just spent half an hour making that flow chart. This is what I do under stress. Flow charts, Bingo cards, top ten lists. Obviously a way better use of my time than identifying and solving my problems.

This afternoon I spent an hour ignoring my kids so I could get some work done. I set up my table saw and cut everything I needed to cut for as many projects as I could think of: a pullout desk in the library, shelves for inside my vanity cabinet, a new drawer for our violin bows. I just love running things through that saw. No matter how crazy everything else in my life gets, that saw always cuts straight and square. Perfection.

I was graced with a few moments of sunshine while I was working on the back patio, so I took the opportunity to take a couple of “look at me in my coveralls and work boots using big power tools” selfies.

I could tell you more about my day, but I won’t because I’m just out of clucks to give. So you won’t hear me rambling about how in the absence of matzah my kids made themselves black beans and salsa for breakfast, or about how truly confusing and crappy K’s school assignments are, or about the fact that today’s “counting the omer” good thing was “Choosing names for our future pet chickens.” (There are no pet chickens in our future, I can assure you.)

As I type this I’m praying that nobody calls for me or asks me anything, because right now the only words I can summon in response to “Eema?” are “PLEASE STOP TALKING TO ME!”

If I went to bed now, would my husband or kids notice? Let’s find out.

Apathy · bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · Jewy goodness · Kids · mental health · parenting · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day 29: Yes, I can count.

Sorry about yesterday (day 28). I started feeling kind of dizzy and fatigued around the kids’ bedtime so I went to my bed to rest for a few minutes. That’s the last I saw of yesterday.

But as an FYI, we played lots of board games yesterday and also offered copious screen time, so everyone was pretty happy.

This morning I woke up with vertigo. I went back to sleep. Woke up with slightly less vertigo, and started the day.

I can probably save us all a lot of time if I just say that today involved a lot of whining and multiple requests for extra screen time (which were not granted.) Mr. December and I started watching a lecture series using our projector in the attic. Our giant beanbag was so warm and cozy, and the lecturer’s voice so calm and soothing, that I fell asleep. At some point Mr. December turned off the lectures and went downstairs, and the kids cuddled up to me from all sides. It was a delicious nap.

When counting the omer this afternoon I asked the kids what today’s good thing was, and the consensus was “nobody murdered anybody” (hey, it’s important to keep expectations low.) K pointed out that this is only day 3 of the omer and we should probably save “no murders today” for someday a bit closer to the end, so N dug a chocolate bar out of the pantry and passed it around. Now day 3 says “chocolate.” Good enough.

I’ve noticed that my stamina and strength are waning. Sure, I could theoretically go for a bike ride, but where? The beauty of biking (for me) is that it’s exercise and transportation. With no place I need to go, what’s the point? I guess it would make sense to start doing my HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout videos again; it’s just so hard to get motivated to do it. I’ve got this strange apathy going on. I can see myself wasting time on stupid things, I have a ton of projects that need to be done, and I can’t get myself to do them. This sucks.

The kids seem to believe that screen time is the only thing they can do right now. Never mind the family library, the swings in the attic, or the craft room in the basement. Never mind dozens of board games and a big backyard. There is “NOTHING TO DO!” and they’re bored. Too bad. I remember the glory days when we had just moved in and had no screens available to the kids — they played elaborate imaginative games, they coloured, they read books. That’s it. Tomorrow I’m hiding the power cords for both family computers. Wish us luck.

Apathy · crafty · Kids · parenting · snarky · The COVID files · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 21: Ennui

Today I had a whole bag of “NO” with my kids’ names on it.

IMG_3031

No, I’m not making breakfast for everyone. You guys are perfectly capable. (They made pancakes and waffles)

No, you cannot have my phone. 

No, do not whine at me. 

No, I’m not in charge of entertaining you. 

No, you may not take a bath after your bedtime. You should have done it an hour ago when I suggested it. 

No, you may not go live with your grandparents because you’re sick of being stuck here with us. You’re not the only one who wants out. 

I felt so adrift today that I had to either laugh or cry. Since crying usually leaves me with a nasty headache, I decided to laugh. “Let’s make a list of things we could do today,” I said. Here’s what we came up with:

Things to do during the COVID lockdown:

  1. Break into the zoo. (“The animals are still there,” Mr. December reasoned, “and it won’t be crowded at all!”)
  2. Take a leisurely stroll down the Allen Expressway
  3. Organize a mass protest against the spread of COVID-19
  4. Turn roped-off playground equipment into emergency housing for homeless people
  5. We could build a tree fort in our yard
  6. Plant some seeds. Sit around and watch them grow
  7. Watch some movies
  8. Perform an entire play complete with costumes and sets
  9. Play front porch charades with the neighbours
  10. Give up and go back to bed.

IMG_3028Number 10 was clearly the favourite among the adults, but the kids nixed it. We did some screen time; I had a nap; I learned that you can make some decent hair elastics out of old pantyhose; I sewed some masks (the kids helped me turn them right-side-out); we played scrabble; I coloured on our wall mural with E. The kids talked or yelled constantly. I finally indulged in some primal scream therapy, which the kids thought was an absolute scream.

The kids are all in bed now. Although I spent the day feeling alternately bored, frustrated, and exhausted, now I can finally follow my dreams… give up, go back to bed, and check off number 10 on my way there.

Apathy · family fun · Kids · love and marriage · mental health · The COVID files · waxing philosophical · whine and cheese

Day 18: April Fools

Last night, before I went to bed, I did a few things around the house.

Like organizing the fridge…

And putting out fruit so that it gets eaten…

IMG_2991

And reorganizing R’s closet. Man, that girl has lots of clothes. I moved them all into my room for safekeeping and replaced them with doll clothes. Much neater!

K heard me moving around in R’s room and offered to help. Apparently she pilfered a few things from our walk-in closet while she was putting R’s clothes in there, because when I went downstairs to turn off all the lights I found this… thing… in Mr. December’s office chair:

IMG_2998

Please don’t ask me. I don’t understand K’s penchant for making effigies of family members. At least she doesn’t use them like voodoo dolls.

Anyhoo, when R opened her closet this morning I stood there expectantly. She looked puzzled.

“APRIL FOOLS!” K and I crowed.

“But it’s not scary at all!” She said, obviously still confused.

I don’t know where she got the idea that April Fools jokes were supposed to be scary; I always thought they were about the silly and unexpected (and possibly the messy and inconvenient.) R’s reaction was a bit of a let-down.

Know what else was a let-down? the realization that this is our life for the foreseeable future. The family trip we were planning — four weeks in the UK — won’t be happening. The days filled with being the IT person for everyone, being constantly available to everyone… those are here to stay for weeks, maybe months. It just hit me today like a ton of bricks. I think I’m having an existential crisis.

What’s it all for? Who cares if R never hands in her French homework? Does it matter if we do school stuff at all? Would I be better off unschooling them? Wouldn’t we all be healthier and happier if we weren’t tied to someone else’s schedule and could sleep as long as we wanted instead of getting up and dressed in time for the morning Zoom classes?

I was reminded of Yuval Noah Harari’s book Sapiens, in which he attributes our success as a species to our ability to believe in shared fictions (that might not be the word he used, but you get the point.) And that reminded me of this gem of a comic:

Screen Shot 2020-04-01 at 10.44.41 PM

The real things that were bothering me today were the lack of personal time — as in when I’m awakened from a much-needed nap to lend a kid my iPhone for a FaceTime call with her friend — and the relentlessness of everyone’s requests for assistance. So I called a family meeting.

“Look,” I said, “I’m going crazy. I’m feeling burned out. I — can you just stop talking for two minutes? … Right. I’m overwhelmed and we need to set some boundaries. So I think that I’m — Geez, you guys! What did I just say? Shush! … I’m setting some times when you absolutely may not disturb me. I’ll just be unavailable unless it’s an emergency. And — ugh, why do I even bother? BE QUIET! — … So. Before you ask me for something, ask yourself to try solving it on your own. If you have tried and you really can’t, then ask a sibling. If neither of you can, then you can ask me. But seriously, I need you to not ask me for help with every little thing. You guys are very capable — ”

“Eema,” R interrupted, “When we’re done here, could you please help me find a pencil so I can do my sketching?”

Nobody else understood why Mr. December and I laughed so hard at that. Maybe there was some kind of language barrier. Did my monologue not register at all?

I kicked the kids outside relatively early today. They probably spent a couple of hours in the backyard, happily digging a big square pit behind the swingset. My sources tell me they want to flood it so we have a little pond. I’m just glad they were out there and not in here. My mood was such that I was not really fit for human company. Or any company.

But hey, it was taco night, and later I pulled out a tub of ice cream for everyone to enjoy, so I may have salvaged some of the evening for the kids. I definitely salvaged it for myself: Mr. December and I spent an hour watching John Oliver’s last show and enjoying quarantine-related musical parodies by the Holderness Family. That and a nice cup of tea have me feeling pleasantly tired. I remember feeling anxious and depressed today, but I’m not feeling it anymore. And that’s a good thing.

Apathy · family fun · Kids · parenting · The COVID files

Day 15: Make Your Own Fun

If I hear “Eema?” one more time today, I’ll lose it.

Unless it’s immediately followed by “I made you brownie in a mug” — that would be fine.

You know how I say that happiness is a simple equation of reality minus expectations? Yeah, I decided to lower my expectations. Like, reeeeally lower them. How low, you ask?

My kids probably had 8 hours of screen time today. When they were outside, they were climbing all over my car. I did not play with them. And all of that was okay.

Actually, I try not to play with my kids if I can help it. I truly believe that kids need to play with each other, learn problem solving and risk taking, and negotiate the terms of their own games, without adult intervention. Adults seem to have a knack for interrupting children’s play and putting the focus back on themselves. But I digress.

One of the beautiful side effects of this quarantine experience is that my children are playing — the kind of play psychologists rhapsodize about. They spent four days playing Pirates; They were running all over the house, laughing and shrieking, while I drank my morning coffee; This afternoon they went out into the backyard (aka the Mud Pit) and busied themselves with some garden tools, an old blue recycling box, and some mud. Later I discovered that they had decided to create a vermicomposting bin. They dug up the worms, gave them a bit of mud, and then took a bag of compostable garbage out of the green bin (yes, really) and emptied its contents into the box. They mixed it all together and added some pieces of plants, and then they dragged the bin over to the back door so I could see what they’d done. They were filthy, tired, and proud of themselves.

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(For my part, I was glad that we haven’t managed to landscape the yard since we finished the renovation. It’s ugly, but the Mud Pit obviously has greater scope for messy play.)

The one thing I actually made an effort to do today was a front-porch sing-along. I set up a zoom meeting, sent the link to all my Facebook friends, and sang and played my heart out for 45 minutes. You’d think the kids would have enjoyed that, right? But no, after about two minutes they left to hang out on the roof of our car. Some passers-by really enjoyed it, though. So did all three people who joined us on Zoom.

And the rest of the day was just what I said above. The kids played together or watched Netflix. Dinner was whatever leftovers were in the fridge. Mr. December watched Jurassic Park with K and N in the attic while E, R, and I snuggled up on the couch to watch Sugar Rush.

So, another day of really lazy parenting. Everyone is still alive and everybody got fed. N even changed his underwear, which pushes our day into the category of “exceeds expectations”. According to that math, I’m pretty happy.

Apathy · Just the two of us · Kids · parenting · snarky · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day Fourteen: There’s a Crack in Everything

So… today happened.

Mr. December and I awoke to a screaming match between R and K. I have no idea what the problem was, but this was actual angry screaming. I decided to ignore it. I think Mr. December got up and intervened. I’m not sure.

After that rude awakening, I slept in while the kids enjoyed copious amounts of screen time. Some academic work got done at Mr. December’s insistence, while I sat near N and tried to write a cute Passover-themed parody of Hamilton. It was mostly garbage; the one song that wasn’t awful was pretty much the original song with a few words swapped out. Who knew Pharaoh and King George III had so much in common?

Inspired by that, I moved on to recording a parody of Closer to Fine that a friend of mine wrote about the COVID-19 crisis. I recorded guitar and then two vocal tracks, and it came together beautifully. Then I spent another half an hour cursing because I couldn’t get the format right to be able to share it with its author.

In between recording attempts, I made the kids quesadillas for lunch. After that I felt like I was pretty much done parenting for the day. Unfortunately, there was an awful lot of the day left.

Things always feel better after we’ve been outside, so I was relieved when the sun finally came out this afternoon. E and I went outside with the sidewalk chalk and coloured part of our cracked walkway: the cracks formed diamonds and triangles, which we filled in with different colours. The way the cracks dictated the design made me think of a Leonard Cohen song, and so I wrote the lyrics on the concrete curb in front of our house in candy colours:

RING THE BELLS THAT STILL CAN RING/ FORGET YOUR PERFECT OFFERING/

THERE IS A CRACK IN EVERYTHING/ THAT’S HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN

Reading those words, looking at our artwork, I suddenly felt a rush of hope and purpose. The world is completely cracked right now. Nothing is right, and yet we have these perfect beautiful moments amidst the chaos. Maybe, I thought, if I embraced the cracks instead of fighting them, we’d have more good days.

Then I came inside, saw my kids’ antics, and snapped.

“DUDE!” I shouted, “What GIVES? Why can’t you sit on that hammock like a NORMAL PERSON? Why is it all lopsided and uneven EVERY TIME you get out of it?!?”

Meanwhile R was pestering us to watch Ghostbusters with her. The thing about R is this: she’s a sweetheart and empathetic and wonderfully thoughtful much of the time. The rest of the time she’s a nudnik – she’ll push and push and push until we explode. She won’t take no for an answer.

“Can you just STOP. TALKING. Please?” Mr. December voiced what both of us were thinking.

Turns out she could not.

I decided to put on my own oxygen mask, so to speak. I took my laptop up to the bedroom and closed the door. Mr. December came in shortly after that, swiftly shutting the door and then locking it.

“What are the kids doing?” I asked him.

“Don’t know. Don’t care.”

I shrugged and invited him to my personal Netflix party. We watched the first episode of Unorthodox, and I only reluctantly agreed not to watch the next episode without him. It was definitely binge-worthy.

I got through the rest of the evening with the help of YouTube. Does it count as parenting if I was sitting with the kids while we watched music videos? It felt like maybe we were bonding… incidentally, if you’re bored, type “Holderness Family” into the search bar on YouTube. You can thank me later.

While the kids were sitting on my lap I realized that something (or someone) smelled pretty rank. Turns out it was E, who had no compunctions about eating pizza and garlic bread and chewing her hair at the same time. She would only bathe if I showered with her, which is why I smell so sweet and clean right now. Trust me, it’s WAAAY better than the stench of desperation I was throwing off earlier.

I tried to salvage the day by reading to my kids. It started off on shaky ground: “This is boring,” said one. “I don’t care,” I answered, “Just be quiet and listen. Or don’t listen. But be quiet!” The book turned out to be interesting enough that Mr. December joined us (total number of people in the loft bed: 5) and I read seven chapters. It was a lovely feeling, with everybody cozying up to listen. I’m glad I did it. Then I tucked in the kids, who persisted in asking for more and more hugs until I got fed up and raised my voice. Way to salvage the evening and end on a positive note.

As I’m blogging, R comes downstairs:

“I can’t sleep.”

I hear this refrain every night. I’ve taken to saying, “I don’t care. That’s a you problem. Go figure it out.”

She’s still here, though, making kissy noises near my ear. Is it possible to feel a bit TOO loved?

“No. Well yeah, probably.” R says after reading over my shoulder. And yet she doesn’t take the hint. As usual, she doesn’t leave until the sixth time I say “Please. Go. Now.” — and by the sixth time, as those of you who are parents well know, I’ve lost my patience and my volume control.

It’s almost 10 p.m. There’s a shot of Amaretto in my tea and a cute guy waiting for me to watch the next episode of Unorthodox with him. And so… good night.