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.


bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · water you paddling?

Day 852: In the Right Direction

E accompanied me on my first post-injury bike ride this morning. I was biking on the lowest possible gear, on flat terrain, and we only did 1.6 kilometres in total. My knee hurt a bit when I used that leg to pedal; but when I only used my good leg to pedal and just let my bad leg go along for the ride, it was okay. Exhausting, but okay.

While the girls were at their horseback riding camp today, I took my mum to Professor’s Lake, a tiny little lake right in the middle of Brampton. There are actually houses in Brampton that back onto a lake—who knew?

Anyhow, we rented kayaks (I still can’t carry ours and neither can Mum.) We’ve been spoiled with the comfy seats in our new kayak. The rental ones were kind of uncomfortable, and some were missing parts—I had to insist that they find me one with a proper seat cushion.

Despite the discomfort, we had a great time. I helped mum improve her paddle stroke and worked on my own form. The heat of the day was much more bearable out on the lake, and an hour’s rental seemed to fly by.

We headed over to the beach area; mum sat down to read while I waded in for a swim. Last time I swam, even the mildest current made my lower leg move, hurting my knee in the process. Today I could swim with no pain, for the first five minutes anyhow. I spent the rest of my time just wallowing in the cool water (like a hippo, with as little of my body as possible out of the water,) or floating on my back and looking up at the sky.

It was a fabulous day. My bike ride was shorter than my usual, I could only swim freestyle or breaststroke for a few minutes, and the kayak wasn’t especially comfortable. Still, I got a lot of enjoyable movement in today—and all of it in the right direction.

Selfie of me in a kayak, with the lake and some suburban-style houses in the background.
bikes planes and automobiles · snarky · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 847: Getting Back in the Saddle

My physiotherapist has cleared me to ride my bike again. There’s a caveat, of course, which is that I should stay on flat ground, and not go too far from home. Mr. December thought that was a pretty big caveat and maybe I shouldn’t be biking at all yet. I gave him a dirty look.

“This forced inaction is killing me,” I told him. He winced in sympathy.

The upshot is that tomorrow morning I’ll be riding around the block—slowly, carefully, and not for too long.

Have you ever come across a book title and thought, someone ought to write a book with the opposite title? No? Just my family? Okay.

Mr. December was reading The Conscious Parent last night, when I remarked that someone should write The Unconscious Parent, a book about the merits of ignoring your kids or sleeping through their childhoods.

K is determined to (one day) write Non-Essential Knots… containing everything that the author of Essential Knots saw fit to leave out.

The book I’m probably most qualified to write would be the opposite of Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. My book,The Power of Later, would discuss the upside of procrastination: that if you put things off long enough, they’ll cease to matter—probably.*

*I know that’s not the opposite of what The Power of Now is about. I’m just riffing off the title, is all. No need to send angry letters.

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

Day 844: Teens and Raccoons

Nothing drives home the fact that you’ve got a teenager quite like this one:

There’s a teenager crashed on my couch and it’s not mine.

K’s friend fell asleep while watching a movie; when we woke her up for dinner, she opened her eyes, looked at K, and went right back to sleep. Just like the raccoon that made our bakfiets its home way back in 2012.

Screenshot of a facebook post. Text reads: "Look what we found in Sara's Bakefits (bike)! No amount of jostling could get it to budge." Photo is of a raccoon sleeping in the box of a cargo bike.
The raccoon lifted its head, looked at me, and went right back to sleep.

You know, this isn’t what the post was supposed to be about, but now I’m thinking about all the ways teenagers are like raccoons:

  • They’re pretty smelly. (Sorry, teens, but you know it’s true—especially when you’re still learning that your sweat stinks.)
  • People who don’t live with them think they’re adorable.
  • You really don’t want to get in a fight with one.
  • They’re territorial, and will snarl at you if not given enough space.
  • When they really want to do something, they’ll figure it out no matter what it takes.
  • Good luck getting them to budge if there’s something you want them to do, though.
  • They go pawing through your stuff looking for something to eat, then leave a mess behind when they’re done.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go leave a snack out for the sleeping creatures so they don’t make a mess of my kitchen.

bikes planes and automobiles · Camping it up · Fibro Flares · Kids

Day 822: Gone.

E’s Kobo is dead. It can’t charge at all and a hard reset proved impossible. Fortunately, it’s still under warranty. I’ll send it back and Kobo will send us a new one. In the meantime, though, this puts a serious crimp in E’s routine.

Her routine is about to change anyhow: day camp starts tomorrow. I had prepared by buying some packaged (red: labelled nut-free) snacks for her to pack in her lunch. Today we prepared her backpack and went to pack the nonperishable part of her lunch, only to discover all of the packaging and none of the snacks.

Now, it’s not like they gorged themselves. Between my four kids and the three friends they had over yesterday, it’s easy to see how there’s nothing left. But I needed it for tomorrow, and they ate it all. Maybe it’s my fault for not wrapping it in yellow police tape that reads: SNACK LINE. DO NOT CROSS.

The day camp is an easy 12-minute bike ride, slightly downhill along the trail—almost no streets at all. It’s a more challenging ride home, of course, because what goes down must come up, if you’re taking the same route to and fro. I’ll ride her there in the morning; if I need to get her by car in the afternoon I will, but maybe Mr. December or K will decide they feel like a nice easy bike ride. I hope they do.

Going to sleep now. I felt better today, though still not 100%, but I can’t say that my brain has caught up to my body yet. Maybe another 10-hour stretch will do it.

bikes planes and automobiles · blogging · Travelogue

Day 815: Where did the time go?

I didn’t blog on Friday—we were busy soaking up every last moment in Jerusalem. We went to Sacher Park after Shabbat dinner and stayed until 10:30 at night.

(It’s another odd cultural difference between Israel and Canada. There were plenty of families with kids playing at the park until ten at night in Israel. In Canada, the parks are deserted much earlier than that. Israeli kids seem to exist on far less sleep than Canadians. I don’t really know why.)

Anyhow, we were at the park. We capped off the evening by climbing the giant tower—yes, all six of us—and hanging out at the very top for a while to reminisce about the trip.

Saturday we were invited out for lunch, to friends who live on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Everyone had a good time. The kids all hit it off; K refused to leave and her three new friends (our friends’ daughter and two other girls from the neighbourhood) all tried to hide her from us. It was adorable. In the end, they walked out with us to show us the way back to the city centre via a valley that featured an abandoned village. The kids and I went as far as the park and then took a cab home while Mr. December walked the whole way back to our place. There was a flurry of packing, and then Shabbat was over and we headed to the airport.

The check-in process was a total farce. We arrived at the airport three and a half hours before our departure time, and we ended up running for the gate as they held the plane for us. It was a perfect storm of system malfunction, dilatory workers, and bad packing, and the net effect was that we had zero time to go to the bathroom, buy snacks for the plane, or (in my case) bang out a quick blog post to tell you all that we were getting on the plane.

So after a late night on Friday, a busy Saturday including a very frustrating check-in process, a mostly sleepless night on a plane, and a day of trying to stay awake, I’m practically falling asleep at the computer. It’s currently 2:38 a.m. in Jerusalem and I’m feeling the jet lag. G’night.

bikes planes and automobiles · Travelogue · whine and cheese

Day 807: Against the Clock

We left Mitzpe Ramon on Wednesday, after a swim and a stop at the makolet for sandwich components. The drive was pretty easy if you don’t count the two wrong turns I took (Dad, I totally understand why Israeli road signs frustrated you.) And then we approached Jerusalem on Road 1. What a mess.

Jerusalem isn’t like Toronto or New York. The streets don’t all run straight; there’s no predictable grid that I can discern; some streets change their names every five blocks. It’s pretty hard to understand the instructions from Waze or Google Maps, because sometimes when they say “turn right onto Ploni Almoni Street” what they really mean is that the avenue you’re currently on will veer to the right and change its name to Ploni Almoni, and you need to stay on the road rather than turning right onto some other street.

We needed to return the rental car before the office closed at five. It was four twenty when we approached the city and got stuck in gridlock. Between the time pressure, the traffic, all the honking, and the confusing navigation, I was feeling very stressed. I think at one point I might have been driving in a buses-only lane—I’m not sure.

We pulled up at the gas station so we could return the car with a full tank, as promised. Mr. December hopped out, looked at the pump, and said, “I don’t see any diesel here.” He went inside to ask the clerk as I impatiently watched the time ticking away. He returned, having learned that the diesel fuel is called “solar.” We were immediately thwarted again: the pumps were pre-pay only, and they wouldn’t accept foreign credit cards. Mr. December had to go back inside and pay.

“Come on, come on, come on…” I chanted under my breath. It was 4:48. Mr. December came back to the car and started pumping the gas… but the gas wasn’t pumping. We pressed the button for assistance and I practiced some deep breathing while we waited. The guy showed up, did something to the pump, and left. Finally, Mr. December was able to fill up the tank.

“Okay,” he said at last. “That’s 300 shekels of gas. I hope that did it, because that’s the amount we pre-authorized on our card.” Naturally, it wasn’t enough—the gauge was only up to ¾ of a tank. He went back inside, authorized another 200 shekels, and pumped gas again. It was 4:56. We had four minutes to get the car back. Mr. December jumped into the passenger seat and I peeled out of the gas station.

The rental return place was only a hundred metres away—down a one-way (the wrong way) street. Frustrated, I turned right on King David and signalled for a left on Hess… but there was gridlock because of a tour bus that blocked the entire lane as its passengers slowly climbed aboard.

“Come ON!” I gritted out. “I have to return this thing!” The clock said 4:57. The driver of a car that was blocking my turn took a look at my face and started backing up. The lady behind him backed up to make more room. I shouted a grateful “THANK YOU!” out the window and sped towards the parking garage. The clock read 4:58.

At 4:59 we pulled up in front of the rental office. “We made it! Go team!” I crowed as Mr. December and I high-fived each other. We had beat the clock.

That’s not even the end of the happy ending: when we got home we found our missing B2 tourist visas, sent them to the car rental company and the hotel, and got our 17% VAT back.

bikes planes and automobiles · Keepin' it real · Travelogue · Worldschooling

Day 783: Easy Landing

Eleven hours in a plane is a LOT of hours in a plane. There are some things you should always expect on an overnight flight to Israel:

  • At least one child having a really hard time falling asleep on the plane, many hours after their usual bedtime, and crying to let the whole plane know about it.
  • Someone will shush the aforementioned child, and their “SHHH!” will be louder and more disruptive than the crying itself.
  • At the first hint of dawn, you’ll wake up to a man towering over your aisle seat (because there’s really nowhere else for him to stand,) wrapped in a tallit and tefillin, davening shacharit while his kids are still sleeping.

Some things we didn’t expect:

  • El Al check-in was the smoothest, most efficient check-in we’ve ever experienced. The fastest one, too.
  • There was an astonishing variety of TV shows, movies, and games in both English and Hebrew.
  • The food was awful. My omelette was so overcooked it could have passed for rubber food in a child’s play kitchen.
  • Our kids kept waking us up.

That last one was definitely the worst. I had finally gotten into a position where both E and I were comfortable. We were both sound asleep when I felt an insistent tapping on my shoulder.

“What?” I asked groggily, lifting my sleep mask to peek out. It was N, practically in tears.

“I can’t sleep,” he whined.

“Does that mean that the rest of us aren’t allowed to?” I groused. His lower lip wobbled.

I asked him to please let me sleep; he agreed, and then proceeded to wake me up twice more. Finally I had to wake E up so that I could rearrange the three of us to give N equal access to Eema snuggles. That was not fun. She cried. I might have cried too—I’m so tired it’s hard to remember.

Did I mention how little leg room there was? E dropped something and I tried to bend over and pick it up, but I kept hitting my head on the back of the seat in front of me. It was impossible. Mr. December also reported feeling pretty cramped despite the fact that he was sitting between two children and should have had plenty of shoulder room at the very least.

Anyhow, we made it. Immigration was a breeze, COVID testing was efficient, and we had the most Israeli experience possible during the cab ride home: the driver needed to stop for gas. When he got to the pump he yelled at the guy in front of us to finish pumping before going into the convenience store so that someone else could use the pump too. When pulling out of the gas station, someone was blocking the way and our driver got out of the van and yelled at the guy to get moving “so the rest of us can do our work!”

We had to isolate until our COVID test results came back, so I ordered delivery for dinner. It was probably the most successful first-night dinner we’ve had on our travels, and that’s really saying something—it took almost an hour to get the delivery app to work. But it did, and the kids gobbled up the hot schnitzel and chips.

I’ve unpacked, organized our stuff, and taken a shower. It’s time for some Israeli TV and a mango popsicle.

bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · Kids

Day 765: Could It Be…?

I fixed E’s bike today; it turned out that the brake was weird because of the cable housing. I replaced it and now everything works. K replaced an inner tube on her bike (she’s had a bad flat tire since before we left for Costa Rica some six months ago.) As everyone knows, after you fix up your bike it’s customary to go for a ride.

K started it: “I feel like a bubble tea. I think I’ll ride up to the mall and buy myself some.”

And then E joined in: “I want to go somewhere on my bike! And I like bubble tea!”

In the end, the three girls and I rode out to the mall (it’s only a kilometer away, but uphill on the way there.) They bought themselves bubble tea (what else is an allowance for?) while I hit Canadian Tire for more giant utility hooks—all of the sleds need somewhere to go, and since the garage ceiling is at least nine feet tall, the most sensible place for out-of-season gear is… up.

I also popped into the grocery store to find that the really yummy, usually expensive, greenhouse-grown Ontario strawberries were on sale for nearly half price. If I thought we could finish ten boxes before they went bad, I’d have bought that many. Instead I settled for four. At the time of posting, it’s been six hours since I bought the berries and there are two and a half boxes left. I predict they’ll all be gone by this time tomorrow.

I hesitate to talk about the weather because as soon as you think it’s one thing, it changes and becomes something else entirely. As one Israeli friend of mine quipped, “Welcome to Canada. If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes… it’ll change.” Nevertheless, today’s sunshine and bike riding and trampolining and cheap fresh local strawberries have given me hope: it’s starting to feel like maybe, just maybe, it might almost be… spring?

bikes planes and automobiles · Homeschool · Keepin' it real

Day 737: Really, Toronto?

“I’ll come back at the end of March and the weather will be warming up by then,” I said breezily as I explained our trip to yet another friend.

But as the saying goes, people plan and God laughs. Last night we came home to minus two degrees and snow. There’s still snow on the ground, which really adds insult to injury. Toronto’s weather sucks.

(There. I said it.)

Aside from the snow, I came home to my newly-painted car (so much for my patented anti-theft system a.k.a. “Nobody would steal such a beat-up car); my friends with the new baby who really needed some advice and reassurance; and a long to do list.

The good news: I also have a “to don’t” list (something that started as a joke with a friend on Facebook.) Like most lists, it’s a work in progress. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  • overcomplicate the blackout curtains situation in the master bedroom
  • start several new projects
  • spend every waking hour with other people
  • stay up late reading every night
  • ‘should’ all over myself

What else needs to go on the “To Don’t” list? I’m open to suggestions.