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

Day 580: Trip Day 1

It’s late at night, so I’m just writing a few lines and some point form notes so I remember what happened today.

  • Flight was delayed for an hour—which we spent sitting in the plane. Mr. December and I had the worst seats on the entire plane—back row, couldn’t recline AND slightly less legroom than the rest of economy class.
  • Shuttle to hotel fine, hotel great, remind me to tell you the story of its founder.
  • Woke up early this morning and met guide for walking tour. Visited parks, markets, pedestrian malls; saw an iguana sunning himself next to the “temple of music” in one park; took pictures in front of bronze angel wings that were a gift from Mexico. Tried ice cream from a vendor that’s been making it for like 100 years—delicious. Vanilla with cloves, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg… I loved it. E and N, not so much.
  • E ate next to nothing all day. At breakfast she tasted the bread (plain white bread! with butter!), the pineapple pudding, the granola cereal. She didn’t like any of it, so she didn’t eat.
  • On the walking tour we stopped at a fruit stand, bought a bunch of different local fruits. Our guide cut them up and we sat down and tasted everything. Except N who tasted nothing. Mr. December took him to a bakery and they came back with a loaf of—wait for it—white bread, which N shared with a ravenous E (to her credit, she did taste the fruit.)
  • All very tired. Back to hotel. Mr. December to his company’s San Jose office. “I’ll be back at 5-6” he said.
  • I took a nap. Kids watched Shrek 2, then played computer games. Went out briefly to convenience store for snacks, since Mr. D was due back in a couple of hours and we’d go to dinner together then.
  • Mr. D did not come back at 5. Texted me at 5:30 that he’d gone to get something to eat with coworkers. I was pretty miffed.
  • Kids were hangry; we went to the hotel restaurant. Pleasant surprise—menu full of things they’d actually eat (except for E, who ate fries and that was it.) Ordered Panko crusted chicken, steak, beef stir fry, chicken soup, tomato soup with grilled cheese. Chicken soup came with tiny pot of plain rice. E ate nothing, kept whining about how hungry she was.
  • Restaurant staff probly thought I was upset with them or the food. I kept looking around for Mr. D and putting my face in my hands in despair b/c E wouldn’t eat.
  • Mr. D arrived at 7:15. We went out to get E something to eat. Almost everything CLOSED. One bakery open. E didn’t want any of the savory options. Ended up with a donut. If we hadn’t suggested a donut she’d have gone hungry.
  • Back to hotel; packing up for tomorrow’s 6:30 departure to the coast. Trying not to be quite so annoyed with Mr. D, with mixed results. No idea what to do about E and food.

TL:DR—beautiful country, friendly people, great tour guide. Food excellent, esp rice and beans for breakfast. Fabulous coffee. Picky children. Tired me.

bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · Travelogue · Worldschooling

Day 579: Ready as I’m Gonna Be

The suitcases are all packed.

After a last-minute water-bottle malfunction and a trip to Canadian Tire, everyone has collapsable water bottles again.

Our boarding passes and Costa Rica Health Check QR codes are printed and paperclipped to the covers of our passports; our passports are stacked open to the photo pages, ready to be quickly flipped through and scanned. They’re in one of my many pockets in my scott-e-vest sweatshirt.

The sukkah has been taken down. The kayaks will just have to stay spread out over the Bakfiets ’til I come back.

I’ve paid all the bills.

I’ve dropped my cellphone plan down to a very basic one so that my voicemail will still pick up while we’re away. I’d better change my voicemail message to say that people should WhatsApp me instead.

The kids have bathed and dressed; they’ve stashed snacks in every available pocket (and since three of them have those magic hoodies, there are a LOT of available pockets.)

The final count of bags is: 2 suitcases (checked luggage); 2 carry-on suitcases; 5 backpacks; 1 guitar.

We leave for the airport an hour from now. I need to eat lunch and take a shower before we go.

Shutting down my computer now. Wish us luck!

bikes planes and automobiles · diet recovery · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · Worldschooling

Day 569: Ten days more…

I’m having a bit of trouble accepting that we leave for our trip in ten days. It doesn’t feel real. We’ve been planning for months, and we’re still planning, and right now I can’t imagine getting the six of us on a plane and going anywhere.

Part of my brain does seem cognizant of the timing, though, since today I sat down and organized our first aid kit for the trip. To give you a sense of the kind of first aid kit it is, I’ll tell you that of five pencilcase-sized pouches, one holds such useful tools as a stethoscope, thermometer, otoscope, pulse oximeter, and peak flow meter. The other four pouches contain ointments and creams; medications; gauze and tape; and six different kinds of adhesive bandages including steri-strips. If it sounds like a lot of stuff, that’s because it is. Most of the time we don’t need these things, but when we do, we need a lot of them; if we’re suddenly struck with a stomach bug we’ll need to hunker down next to a bathroom—not run to the store to get more Immodium and Gastrolyte.

On a more upbeat note, I’ve been shopping for bathing suits—bikinis, to be precise. Since I’ve finally accepted that a bikini body is just having a body and putting a bikini on it, I figure I should take advantage of what two-piece swimsuits have to offer: namely, easier trips to the bathroom and no more cold, wet midsection.

I’ve been ordering bikinis online with the intention of trying them all on and keeping one or two. So far the frontrunner is a hot pink high-waisted number with a top that’s both secure (i.e. I won’t fall out of it) and just a touch sexy. I still have to try a couple more that should arrive this week too, but I’m already feeling good about my bathing suit situation.

As for homeschooling supplies: it’s hard to strike a balance between how much work we’d like to do in a perfect world and how much work we think will actually get done (Mr. December estimates that we’ll do about ten school days on our sixty-day trip.) My current plan is to load up my Kobo with books on different subjects that I can read aloud and discuss with the kids, and for each of them to take their writing notebook to write about either what we’ve read or what we’ve done each day. I’m also bringing things like a monocular for wildlife-watching and a pocket microscope. Oh, and sketchbooks and drawing supplies. That’s it.

On second thought, I’m not as oblivious to our looming departure as I thought I was. I’m sure I’m forgetting something basic—while I’m busy planning for pulse oximetry and microscopy—but what?

Five different-coloured zippered pencil cases with transparent sides. They contain adhesive bandages; pills in blister packs; gauze and first aid tape; medical instruments; and creams, ointments, and sanitizer respectively.
bikes planes and automobiles · el cheapo · hackin' it · whine and cheese

Day 563: I don’t get it.

The air travel industry drives me nuts.

If I search for flights from Ecuador to Toronto (one way,) I can get a flight that goes through Miami for $3100 (for the whole family, not per person.)

Now, if I search for the same flights as above, but separately (Ecuador to Miami, and another search for Miami to Toronto,) the total price is $2100.

What gives?

Interestingly, when I clicked on “book through the airline,” the American Airlines page opened up for me… in Spanish. It seemed to think I was searching from Ecuador. I tried to search for that flight with my country set to “Canada—English,” but the page crashed every time I did that. In the end I decided that there’s nothing wrong with a flight ticket purchased in Spanish; Google translated the page for me, I filled in our details, and we got our cheap(er) flight.

I still don’t get it, though. Don’t get me wrong—I’m thrilled that an extra hour of searching saved me $1000 in after-tax money (easiest $1K I ever made,) but it seems just a little bit absurd, doesn’t it?

Even weirder: I just went and did the same searches again so I could get a screenshot for this blog post… and got completely different (higher) prices on the two separate flights this time around. HOW????? and WHY????

I think my head just exploded.

bikes planes and automobiles · water you paddling?

Day 554: Seize The Day

I biked fourteen kilometres today.

We were going to visit friends. I stepped outside, saw how sunny and clear the day was, and decided to bike there while Mr. December drove the kids over. I guess I could have gone with them in the car, in the interests of time or whatever, but there are always excuses; and I don’t need any made-up lame-ass excuses because, as we all know by now, it’s always something. Being healthy, pain-free, and having perfect biking weather, it was a no-brainer for me to bike.

I’m glad I did—although I’m not used to that kind of distance anymore, which I believe means I should do it more often.

The weather looks favourable tomorrow morning, too. Since my legs will still be recovering from today’s 14K, I think I’ll sneak out of the house early and go kayaking. Alone. What are my chances, do you think?

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.