bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · Kids

Day 486: Worst. Letter. Ever.

E and I had an awesome time at Wet N Wild today. After almost five hours I called it quits, but she would have stayed until closing if I’d let her. We stayed mostly on the smaller waterslides and in the kids’ playground area, which is just how I like it. I have no idea what I’ll do when all my kids are big enough for every ride; I’ll still want to be going down the kiddie slides. A daredevil I’m not (and that’s not Yoda, it’s Yiddish syntax.)

We arrived home to a letter in our mailbox, obviously from one of the big kids. They all joked about how their letters would be brief, but this one took the cake. One folded-up sheet of lined, looseleaf paper, on which was scrawled “Hi” in five-inch-high letters; on the back there was a very messy “N.” Please, child: as if I couldn’t tell it was from Mr. Do-only-the-bare-minimum.

Before we left for the waterpark I did about nine kilometres of biking as I ran some errands; one of which, you may recall, was picking up new fabric samples for the window seat. Which means that…

It’s time to play everyone’s favourite Sweet N Crunchy interactive game, “Pick My Fabric!”

For the record, and because it’s hard to tell in the photo, the brown and tan (next to the sunflower fabric) are both buttery-soft faux leather.

So… which one is it this time?


bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · Just the two of us · Kids · water you paddling?

Day 483: I’ve still got it.

…and E is definitely getting it.

Today E biked to my parents’ house for the first time. It’s about seven kilometres from door to door (driveway to driveway) and she biked the whole thing with a great attitude. I am so proud of her.

She chose to get a lift back with my parents rather than bike back home, a decision that all of us adults supported. For my part, I was a little relieved to be able to bike home at a normal pace.

You have to understand that despite the fact that she can go the full distance, E bikes very slowly. The ride we did today normally takes about thirty minutes for Mr. December and me (depending on the traffic lights,) but it took E almost an hour. There was a lot of stopping, a lot of waiting, and a lot of very slow cycling on a really low gear. It was just a bit painful to have to go so slowly.

Our ride home (sans E, remember) was exhilarating. Mr. December and I went at our usual pace, along streets that were mostly deserted, with the wind whistling in our ears and blowing through our hair (whatever stuck out from our helmets, that is.) It was twenty-six minutes of pure cycling joy. Why don’t I do this more often?

There’s no point wondering. I’m an adult; if I want to do something more often, I have to just get up and do it—which is why I spontaneously took E to the beach in the middle of the day today. The kayaks were already in the car along with our life jackets, and with only the two of us and some towels to get ready, it wasn’t hard to get out the door.

The weather was perfect for a day at the beach, by which I mean that it was cloudy and not particularly hot, so there were no crowds. We dug a moat that filled itself from the lake, then built a castle on the island in the middle. E insisted on adding some small huts “for the villagers.” She learned firsthand about how erosion happens when the water coursing through the moat undermined the edges of our island and caused chunks to break off and fall into the water; I don’t think any geography or ecology lesson could have made it any plainer. She diligently engineered retaining walls made of rocks to fix the problem.

Because I was determined to get some real paddling in, I tied a tow line from my kayak to E’s and told her to paddle when she could. We had a much longer kayaking session because of it (note to self: maybe a tandem kayak is a good idea.)

Image description: 1. selfie, with half my face showing on the left, and a green inflatable kayak with E in it on the right. There’s a yellow rope tied to the front of E’s kayak. The lake and the city are in the background. 2. The moat we dug with the pyramid-shaped castle and three mounds for villagers’ houses.

Today was pretty near perfect. How could it not be? Waffles for breakfast, beach time, bike rides… and Mr. December and I even enjoyed some drinks and quiet conversation out on the back porch before E came back home tonight. We need more days like this; happily, it’s in my power to make that happen.

bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · Keepin' it real · whine and cheese

Day 471: Every. Single. Time.

Mr. December is the “fun” parent. He loves running around with the kids, roughhousing, and playing pretend. Play is totally one of his parenting superpowers.

I prefer to sit on the sidelines. Partly because playing pretend makes me feel like my brain is leaking out of my ears, but also because roughhousing usually inevitably ends with me getting hurt.

And yet I let myself be drawn into it. Mr. December and the kids will be laughing, tumbling around, and having a grand time; Then I’ll get a text that says, “Come join us?” Or he’ll call out, “Why don’t you come and play?” and then the children will start clamoring for me to join the game. It’s flattering, but I really need to learn to withstand the flattery lest I end up injured.

It’s a fine line I’m walking. On one hand, I want my kids to be bold and resilient; I want them to try things and do things and persist. I want them to have grit. Rightly or wrongly, I don’t feel like I’m modeling grit when I opt out of things like roughhousing or family hikes. I know that I’m doing it for the right reasons, but I don’t know whether they see it that way. On the other hand, I’m modelling self-care and limit setting. Right?

At least the injuries I sustain while playing with them are visible, which makes it easier for me to feel like the kids understand. Like the time E watched as a branch fell on my head, aggravating my concussion; or like every time I join them wrestling on the bed and then someone’s (very hard) skull connects with some part of my body; or like what happened tonight.

We rode our bikes to a nearby park. I gamely played “The Floor is Lava: Special Rules,” with my special rule being that my shoes were magically lava-proof (for those who don’t know the game, my special rule meant that I could just stand around and do nothing.) Then Mr. December and I called for everyone to join a family huddle so we could decide what to do next.

I don’t know how it happened. One minute I was standing there, waiting for everyone to gather, and the next I was falling to the ground, sandwiched between two of my kids. Thank goodness the ground there is covered in wood chips; I would have been much more scraped up if I’d fallen on a hard surface. I got up and wiped away the blood oozing from a scrape near my knee.

And then the ache started. I can only surmise that I fell pretty hard, onto both my arms and my right leg. It’s all hurting right now—not excruciatingly, but I’m definitely aware of the pain.

I’m promising myself that next time I will stay at least six feet away from my family when they’ve been playing. I just never know when the game will start up again with me at it’s centre. And when it does, I’ll be the one who gets hurt. It happens every single time.

bikes planes and automobiles · DIY · fame and shame · family fun · Homeschool · Kids · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 444: How we Roll

“Honey, I’m trying to write this blog post, but my writing is just flat.

“Is that your opening joke?” Mr. December asked.

“What? No—oh. I see. No, it wasn’t. But maybe I spoke too soon? It shouldn’t be too hard to change gears.”

He mimed a rimshot.

“Okay, fine,” I murmured. “I’ve made a start. Might as well roll with it.”


A few weeks ago the chain on E’s bike started coming off the gears. Then R complained that the hardest gear on her bike was feeling an awful lot like the easiest. I can manage small bike repairs, but I had neither the skills nor the time to take on the task, nor the tune-ups that all of our bikes desperately needed.

I went online and looked up a mobile bike repair guy whom we’d met a couple of years ago at the Wychwood Barns market. The website had a simple online service request form; I filled it out and waited.

I soon had a message saying that Matteo (of Matteo’s Bike Repair) was booked up for the next few months, but Percy had space on his schedule for us. I had met Matteo in person but had no idea who this Percy guy was. Was he any good? When I contacted Matteo I felt like I was dealing with a known quantity; Percy was a mystery.

As it turned out, Percy was exactly who we needed. A former homeschooled kid himself, he took the time to explain to the kids not just how the different parts of a bike work, but the science behind it all. He was endlessly patient and good-humoured—even in the face of N’s standard two-dozen-or-so interruptions. And he immediately said “Yes!” when I offered popsicles. I do like an adult who appreciates popsicles.

By any standard, this was a successful class and a fabulous homeschool day. All four kids learned how to lubricate their bike chains, adjust the brakes, and pump up the tires. R got some hands-on experience in tightening her gearshift cable and removing and reinstalling the pedals. And we now know an awesome bike repair guy, just in case any of our Toronto friends ever need one.

bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · Fibro Flares · Sartorial stuff · The COVID files

Day 443: A pain in the…

My legs hurt. I mean they really, really, really hurt. I’m thrilled, though, because it’s not fibromyalgia pain. No, my leg muscles are killing me in the way any muscle protests overexertion. If I rest and then stand up, my legs scream at me; if I keep moving them, they gradually downgrade the screaming to a pitiful whine. Once I had figured this out, I committed to a six kilometre bike ride with R. My legs felt better while biking. Now that I’m sitting down they’ve decided to scream again, but that’s okay. As the song says, it hurts so good.

I forgot to tell you that the real winner of yesterday’s debacle was…

(drumroll)

My new pants. They were everything they promised to be: stretchy, comfortable, lightweight, and—best of all—aside from the patch of dirt on the back, dirt-resistant: after I had brushed them off with my hands I could have worn them to a restaurant with a nice blouse. I mean, if a restaurant near me was actually open, which reportedly won’t happen until at least June 14. Anyhow, my pants were so great that Mr. December noticed and asked me to buy him a similar pair.

(He probably wouldn’t have noticed my pants at all except that the shorts he was wearing had inferior pockets that didn’t hold his phone securely enough. I ended up with the important stuff in my (roomy, zippered) pockets. It was quite the role reversal, I tell you.)

In the meantime, we got the Keens sandals I ordered for everyone on Friday. After carefully measuring each person’s feet and matching the measurements up on the sizing guide, the shoes were all one size too big for their respective owners. So back they go, and we’ll have to try ordering a size down.

(Look, I get that shoe stores weren’t essential during the first wave of COVID, but it’s been fifteen months and my running shoes have holes in them. If they don’t open shoe stores soon, I’ll just have to hire my own personal courier to take care of all the back-and-forth returns and exchanges. I may be adept at online shopping, but I need to actually try on several pairs of running shoes before making my choice.)

On the whole I have to say that it wasn’t a terrible weekend as long as you don’t count the hike. The weather was nice and warm, the sun was shining, I had a lovely bike ride today, and the pain in my legs isn’t a fibro flare. In the words of my late neighbour, Olga, I am thankful.

bikes planes and automobiles · crafty · family fun · Homeschool · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 438: Why, Shutterfly? WHY?

First, the good news: I had a wonderful bike ride to and from the imaging clinic today, and my legs feel fine (so far, knock wood.)

Now, the other news:

Last night I decided it was high time to get working on our family photobooks. I mean, I’m only seven years behind, so it’s not urgent yet; but we all know how “important but not urgent” tasks keep getting delayed by the multitude of urgent situations that arise every week.

I’ve used Shutterfly very happily in the past, so I went back to their site, selected the size and style of book I wanted, and uploaded my photos. A banner across the top of the page announced “Try our new, improved design software!”

That should have tipped me off. In my (admittedly limited) experience, new and improved software is rarely an improvement.

I was quite proficient with their old design software. Not professional-level design, to be sure, but my photobooks all look pretty good (if I do say so myself.) So when I couldn’t figure out how to do the simplest things on Shutterfly, and when their “help” function failed to be helpful, I decided to see if there was a way to use their old software—sometimes there is.

There wasn’t. I howled in frustration: the old software was JUST FINE, thankyouverymuch. Why did they change it? WHY?!?!?!?

So it is that I’ve given up on Shutterfly. They could’ve had my business for the next ten photobooks. Instead they fixed something that wasn’t broken, and they’ve lost me in the process. Their loss, Mixbooks’ gain.

I must say, though, I’m really enjoying designing these scrapbook pages. It’s replaced my Facebook doomscrolling and my online games of Wingspan, and for that I’m thankful. I just love it when what I have to do and what I like to do are one and the same.

For your enjoyment (and mine,) here’s one of the spreads I finished today:

bikes planes and automobiles · DIY · Fibro Flares · hackin' it

Day 432: Comebacks

Our trampoline mat ripped in April. I called the company immediately to order a replacement part, which was backordered until June. Happily, it didn’t take that long; it arrived at our house a few days ago.

Be proud of me: I recognized that if Mr. December and I tried to replace the mat ourselves, it would take several hours of sweating and swearing, and there was a very real possibility that someone would get whacked in the head with one of the tension rods. We decided to hire a professional. He did the job this morning in twenty minutes.

So now the trampoline is back after a month and a half.

I’m back, too, I think. I jumped on the trampoline a very little bit today, something I was previously unable to do without bringing on post-concussion symptoms (the concussion was two years ago, but some effects still linger.) It was exhilarating. Tomorrow I’ll jump just a bit longer and before you know it, trampolining will be my daily workout.

I’ve also been biking more this past week, and I’ve been able to go on short rides without triggering another fibro flare. The rides are far shorter than what I used to do at my peak, but my body is just happy to be moving again, and I can’t expect to go from a six-week flare and a year of lockdowns into fourteen kilometres with a loaded 100-pound cargo bike overnight, can I?

As reluctant as I am to admit it, Mr. December was kind of right about the light situation in our bedroom. After a blowout “fix this now!” argument, I stomped upstairs and blocked the windows completely with cardboard. It looks pretty awful from outside, but it definitely creates blackout conditions. Last night I slept a lot later than I have the past couple of weeks. We’ve also been going to sleep a bit earlier, and I know that the increased sleep is likely keeping me from flaring again.

I’m not okay with having cardboard in my windows all the time, though. The extra hardware for our new curtain rod has come in, and so has the black adhesive-backed felt I ordered (to stick to the ceiling between the wall and the curtains, because otherwise the light just reflects off the ceiling and straight into our eyes.) Mr. December will help me install everything this weekend. It had better work. If it doesn’t, I’m sure you’ll be able to hear my scream of frustration no matter where in the world you are.

bikes planes and automobiles · education · family fun · Homeschool

Day 419: Classroom of the year

We had the perfect confluence of events today: Mr. December wasn’t teaching today, and the weather was beautiful. I decided we’d spend the entire morning doing our schoolwork at the park.

Our morning was the kind of morning that makes me fall in love with homeschooling all over again. We biked out to the park with all our stuff and chose a picnic table to serve as our classroom. I gave the kids ten minutes to play in the playground and when I called them back, it was to join me on our picnic blanket for music class.

I’ve found a video-based curriculum that teaches theory, sight singing, and ear training. About a minute into the first video, the kids we complaining that the teacher talked too much and that the whole video was stupid. “Can’t you just teach us this stuff without watching the videos?” they pleaded.

So today, on our blanket, we reviewed the solfege hand signs and I taught them about major chords. We sang through a few simple songs with the hand signs. I even had them figure out the names and hand signs for the first bar of “O Canada.” By the end of class, even the most tone-deaf of my kids was singing “Sol, Mi, Doh” in tune.

We took a quick break while I tethered our laptop to my cellphone for the internet access; then I set E up with wireless headphones at a nearby table for her Zoom class. While she was learning about Shavuot in Hebrew, we were learning Latin roots and then previewing and discussing the kids’ literary essays. Next up was our read-aloud of Animal Farm. I hadn’t quite planned it this way, but we finished the book today.

“That was the best book ending ever!” K said, wide-eyed. I happen to agree with her.

Then it was free play for everyone as, one at a time, the kids joined me on the blanket to practice their Hebrew reading. R decided to bike a bit more (easily done, as this park is huge and flat with several little paths) while E tried some challenging new climbers.

Three hours after we started school, we all packed up and biked home. It had been a remarkably easy morning: no arguments, no resistance, and no complaints. Everyone participated. Everyone enjoyed it. We all got some exercise, fresh air, and Vitamin D. I’d be hard pressed to imagine a better school day. Maybe we should do it again tomorrow.

A picnic table in the park. Best classroom we’ve had all year!
bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · Fibro Flares

Day 417: Where has he been all this time?

Mr. December is currently out with all four kids, biking to a bubble tea place to celebrate R’s finishing all the grade five Kumon workbooks. Grade six math, here she comes!

Everyone was running to and fro, looking for socks and masks and helmets, as I stood on the front porch and watched.

“You’re not coming?” Mr. December looked puzzled.

“I’m already feeling pain in my legs,” I said. “If I come with you I might not be functional tomorrow. I’m not sure that’s worth it. Just get me a bubble tea.”

He frowned, “Wow, you really can’t go anywhere! That sucks!” He said it as if this was the first time he’d ever noticed my limitations.

“No kidding,” I deadpanned, channeling my late Buby. I wanted to say something a bit more colourful, but there were children present.


It’s not that I’m in a flare—I’m not—and it’s not like I can’t do anything. After all, we started this morning with a workout that included holding a wall sit for 75 seconds, doing a bunch of squats, a full minute-long plank followed by another thirty seconds, and push-ups. I sweated, I felt the burn, it felt great.

OOH, LOOK! BUNNIES! I’m not kidding! I just looked out my window and noticed two adorable bunnies eating our lawn. I wonder if I can attract more of them—it might save us having to mow the lawn!

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Exercise, feeling the burn, not completely incapacitated. But it’s so hard to know what kind of effect the 4K bike ride will have on my legs if they’re already sore. I figured it’s safer to stay back, if a bit disappointing and a lot less fun. At least K promised to bring me my bubble tea.

bikes planes and automobiles · blogging · family fun · Guest Posts · Kids

Day 416: A Review Of Mother’s Day (Guest Post)

Today R decided to write a guest blog post: a behind-the-scenes look at how my Mother’s Day treat got picked up. I did correct the name of the bakery and I did a bit of capitalization clean-up, but all the words (and most of the punctuation, including the semicolon) are R’s. Enjoy.


Yesterday at 8:25 Abba woke me up saying “Were going to pick up scones for mothers day.” We biked to Baker and Scone and stood in a line for what felt like forever. We were only really standing there for fifteen to twenty minutes before we realized we were in the wrong line; apparently, for pick up, you just walked up to the door and they’ll bring you your order. We were standing in the line to order from the store/restaurant. While a worker went to get our order E decided to get off her bike, and tripped over over what I think was the wooden porch and hit her head right over one of the ears (can’t remember if it was the right side or the left.) Once we got our order and made sure it was secured on Abba’s and K’s bikes we headed off. N and Abba went a bit ahead, so me and K stayed with E to make sure she was okay. When we were only a block away from the store I checked on E to make sure she was okay. E said she had a headache, so once we crossed the street and joined Abba and N on the other side E told Abba about her headache and Abba called Ema to pick E up. Despite there being room for one more bike and a person, Abba made me, K and N bike home. When we got home and washed our hands, I went to swing in the attic, only to be called down five minutes later to eat our scones. We had to do school on Sunday because it worked better with Abba’s schedule. Sunday was an all-math day. And I’m almost done grade five in math! Around three we got out of school and I got online with my friends.


There you have it. They all went out to pick up treats and then I got called to drive over and rescue one of them; so not only did I get scones and jam, I also got the gift of feeling needed. Not to mention, of course, the gift of not having to think of what to blog about for two days in a row. Now, that’s really something.