A long and winding road trip · bikes planes and automobiles · el cheapo · family fun · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 97: What I did on my summer vacation, part 2

Before I get to the meat of this post, let me just say Happy Fathers’ Day to all those celebrating today, but in particular to my father, my husband, and his father — each of them, in his own way, a supreme example of a good father.


When we left off last week, we were reversing out of our driveway and heading towards adventure on a Sunday morning. Right before we left, Mr. December pulled me aside and asked, “Should we do some kind of announcement when we get on the road? Like on an airplane?” I thought it was a great idea, so we recorded something like this:

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen, and welcome aboard the B-bus. Today we will be riding at an altitude of about four feet. The weather is clear and we’ll be in Niagara Falls in about ninety minutes. For your comfort and convenience you will find a fleece blanket, a full water bottle, and an in-flight entertainment clipboard in the seat pocket in front of you. On behalf of all of us, we wish you a pleasant journey.”

The kids giggled, but they hadn’t heard the best part yet: Mr. December then translated into “Buk Buk” language (I’ve mentioned his chicken alter-ego before, right?).

“Buk buk bukbuk buKAW, buk buk B-bus. Buk bukaw Niagara Falls bukbuk buk.” … and so on. You get the idea.

An hour and a half later we arrived in Niagara Falls and spent the day on the Maid of the Mist, the Niagara Skywheel, at Ripley’s Believe it… or Not!, and at the IMAX film about the falls. And, of course, we stopped in at the Hershey store. The kids were so busy deciding what candy they wanted to buy that they completely missed the free samples (so did Mr. December, but I shared mine with him. I’m nice like that.)

Our lunch that day was a packed lunch from home, so it wasn’t until dinner that we discovered that in Niagara Falls, even large chain restaurants are overpriced. We went to East Side Mario’s and I gaped in disbelief when I saw what they were charging. We still had to eat, though, so Mr. December wisely ordered a few dinners (huge dishes) and we all shared them.

Back at the hotel it was bedtime, but we all wanted a swim in the hotel’s pool. As it happened, so did all the other families at our hotel. We were still swimming when the pool closed at nine. Baths for all, and then bed. Right?

Wrong. The falls were lit up in colours and, according to the guest information in our room, the fireworks would begin at ten. As soon as they heard the first of the fireworks, the kids shot up out of their beds and dragged two armchairs to the window.

“Eema, why are you trying to sleep? Aren’t you coming to watch?” They asked.

“No. Somebody has to be alert enough to drive tomorrow, you know!” was my half-mumbled, half-whined response. And with that, I put in my earplugs, pulled on my eye mask, and went to sleep.

One day down, thirteen more to go.

bikes planes and automobiles · crafty · DIY · education · family fun

Day 95: What I did on my summer vacation

We had a family meeting the other night where we broke the news to our kids that we’ll be homeschooling them through the summer. They were unimpressed, even after I pointed out that since nothing is open around here, there’d be nothing to do. It’s all but impossible to find a private cottage to rent for July or August. What’s the point, I asked, of sitting around the house doing nothing all summer? This way we can homeschool through July and August and then, when the “vacation” is over and things are more normal, we can rent a cottage or travel or something.

I don’t blame them for feeling disappointed; last summer was epic — and I never blogged about it, did I? Let’s rectify that.


You know that I’ve always had a homeschooling fantasy, long before COVID made me a homeschooler. Mr. December and I had been tossing around the idea of taking a big family trip and homeschooling along the way. If you have a sense of Mr. December’s personality, you won’t be surprised that he insisted we do a trial trip first. So it was that I found myself planning a two-week road trip.

The kids wanted to see New York City (because there’s an m&ms store there, that’s why,) so we ended up doing a circuit from Toronto through Corning to NYC, detouring inland through Kerhonkson, NY, and then hitting Boston and Montreal before heading back home. Here’s our route map:

Planning is something I do very well, and I thoroughly enjoyed prepping for this trip. The itinerary had to be planned, of course, but there was also a lot of logistical planning to be done.

We decided early on that we would all stay together in one hotel room whenever possible. The super-helpful lady at Mariott reservations assured me that since we’re a family with four fairly young kids, nobody would bat an eyelash if we brought sleeping bags for a couple of kids to sleep on the floor. I spent over an hour on the phone with this young woman as she checked the square footage of every room before we booked.

We bought a “toddler cot” for E and a self-inflating camp mattress for K; both of those items, as well as all the bedding, could fit inside a single medium-sized suitcase.

Next, our packing strategy. Since the trip necessitated spending no more than three nights in any one place, we didn’t want to be burdened with too much luggage. We decided to pack only about four days’ worth of clothes and do laundry as we went (most of the places we stayed had coin laundry machines.) Clothing for all six of us fit into a second medium-sized suitcase.

Of course, when you’re planning to go hiking, horseback riding, swimming in lakes, and exploring cities all in the same trip, no one pair of shoes is right for all activities. Since our car would be with us for the whole trip, I reasoned that we could store bulkier things like shoes, beach towels, and rain gear in the car. We stowed them in three huge plastic bins that, when piled neatly, created a nice little side table for whoever would be sitting in the back row.

If we wanted the kids to do some academic work (and we did) we’d have to bring some school supplies with us. I used an old plastic file box that had a snap-on lid with a handle. Each child had their own hanging file folder that held their workbooks. The file box also had enough room for a well-stocked pencil box and our charging station.

The kids had a strict limit of “whatever you can fit in a small (read: tiny) backpack, plus one stuffie and maybe a pillow.” They were responsible for their own personal items, and I’m proud to say that the only thing left behind was a single water bottle.

We determined the setup for our minivan: the two adults up front, three younger kids across the middle, and K in the back. She wasn’t keen on that arrangement until we said, “You’ll have your very own kingdom with nobody bothering you!” That got her on board.

You know I’ll work a DIY crafty project into anything if I can, right? This time I managed two:

Clipboards

I bought four plastic clipboards with room for stuff inside. On the front side I put a blank piece of paper and laminated it to the clipboard with clear adhesive book cover. Voilà: a dry-erase marker board for doodling. To the back I laminated a copy of the route map I posted above, so the kids could follow our progress. Everyone got a pencil case with pencils, dry-erase markers, and washable markers; I stocked the inside of each clipboard with blank paper.

Family trip t-shirts

I’ve always felt that matching t-shirts would be helpful when we’re out and about as a family; this was my chance to make it happen. I designed two different shirts and used printer-compatible iron-on transfers to apply them to the shirts. To the kids’ chagrin, we made them wear these shirts anytime we were going to be somewhere with crowds. When we lost N at the Boston Children’s Museum and they asked us, “What is he wearing?” we simply pointed to our shirts and said, “This, but smaller.” He was found very quickly.

And so, with our belongings packed and our car fully stocked with water and snacks, we pulled out of our driveway and started our adventure.

bikes planes and automobiles · DIY · education · Kids

Day 84: Productivity!

It was a weird kind of day today. We only have two kids right now (E and R are with my in-laws for a week), so I was able to get a few more things checked off my list. Most excitingly, our garage is a neater place as of today.

See how neat? Now, who needs an extra brake cable? End caps?

Things I accomplished today:

  • Oiled the hardware on K’s swing so it doesn’t wake up the neighbours anymore. Seriously, last week one of our neighbours commented on how nice it is that our swing set gets so much use, and then asked if I’d like to borrow some WD-40 for our squeaky swing. I thought that was a nice way to sum up the situation.
  • Installed a hose reel in the garage so the hose isn’t underfoot all the time.
  • Installed hooks and a wall-mounted storage bin in the garage. These have now replaced my former storage system for bike parts, which was a bin on the floor with everything thrown in together.
  • Organized all our spare bike parts and accessories on the hooks. Now if we have something, we can see it — and we have pretty much everything. Inner tubes, kickstands, rear racks, fenders, replacement brake cables, extra chains, lights, locks, and all the tools. Now I just have to teach the kids how to use this stuff.

Oh, and I cleaned the kitchen, checked my kids’ schoolwork, talked to my mum, took a nap, and got involved in a heated online discussion about whether leaf blowers should be outlawed.

On the other hand, the two kids currently at home were… how do I say this? … well, they were pretty unproductive. We assigned them math and writing work that, put together, should have taken them a grand total of four hours at the outside. They started “working” at 9:45 and still hadn’t finished their assignments by 4:30, when we decided to call it a day (they lost privileges for tomorrow because they didn’t complete all their work.) The work wasn’t so hard, but staring into space, taking a “two minute” (read: half-hour) break for fresh air, and making “just a little snack” every hour or so really eats into their time. I’m thinking of buying them stopwatches or timers so they can see how much of their work time is spent on not-work.

We’ve declared an ETB for tonight (camp acronym for Early To Bed) on the theory that they were too tired to focus on their work today. We’ll be tucking N and K in at 8:00, and then Mr. December and I will go to sleep around 8:30 or so. Hopefully tomorrow will be a productive day for everyone, adults and children alike.

bikes planes and automobiles · community · The COVID files · well *I* think it's funny... · what's cookin'

Day 48: May Day

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I thought this day would never come. It was always tantalizingly out of reach, giving us glimpses of warmth and sunshine. But it looks like it just might be… spring?

Lots of things are growing now: Daffodils and tulips; buds on our fruit trees; dandelions; Mr. December’s beard and mustache; My unibrow (Yup, I’m letting my inner Muppet out to play.)

I biked out to pick up our grocery order today, with E as my adorable sidekick. My knee was hurting but I didn’t really care — as far as I’m concerned, happiness is a bike ride. And maybe some baked goods every now and then.

Speaking of baked goods: A friend posted on Facebook that she wanted some raspberry canes to plant in her yard, and she offered baked goods in exchange. I didn’t need to be asked twice — now I can hardly see where she dug them up and I’m in possession of some beautiful-looking cinnamon buns (can we all say “dessert for breakfast”?)

I’m just going to put it out there: I have a couple of old boxwood trees and a whole ton of hydrangeas. Anybody who wants to come dig them out and take them away is welcome. I won’t even ask for baked goods; at this point I’d also be happy for a short in-person conversation with someone I don’t live with (but I wouldn’t say no to chocolate if you insisted. Just sayin’.)

I discovered something today: we have neighbours! There are actual people living in the other houses on our street! I mean, sure, okay, I knew theoretically those homes couldn’t all be vacant, but I think that was my brain’s assumption because we’ve never seen at least half of the families who occupy those houses. It’s a shame it took a pandemic for them to come out of their shells; if we had met before, our kids could actually have played together. Now the closest we can get is hollering from the bottom of their driveways, “Hey, nice to meet you! Give us a call if you survive COVID!”

But seriously, friends and neighbours, I’d like to see more of you guys. Especially if there are baked goods involved… just sayin’.

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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.

bikes planes and automobiles · DIY · family fun · goodbye clutter! · Jewy goodness · Kids · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day 22: [insert clever title here]

This morning I led a passover-themed music program online. Wanting to look professional (I do want to work for this synagogue again in the future), I had to clear a space that looked professional and didn’t have my kids streaking through it.  The library was the obvious answer, since it has not one but two doors between it and the rest of the house. I straightened up the books on the shelves, adding a few children’s passover books, and cleared the floor in a four-foot radius around me. Outside my circle, chaos still reigned; inside the circle I sat serenely in front of neatly-organized bookshelves.

Photo on 2020-04-05 at 10.01 AM

It looked good enough that I finally replaced my old profile picture of me and K in my parents’ pool when she was a baby.

While biking to a friend’s house to pick up some Maror (horseradish, for the seder) from her mailbox, we had a bit of an incident. E was on the tandem trailer attached to my bike, and when I heard her shout, “Wait! I’m off my seat!” I stopped quickly. Mr. December couldn’t stop, and ploughed right into her.

As it turned out, his rear brake cable had snapped, making it harder for him to brake. When we got home I produced an assortment of tools and an extra brake cable and we got to work. Putting away his now-repaired bike, Mr. December asked me to please do something about all the random pieces of wood and drywall that blocked off part of the garage. This was not a new request; I think he’s been asking since we moved in a year and a half ago. What was different this time is that he actually offered to help. Ten minutes later, the garage floor was clear (except for bikes) and we could easily access everything.

Meanwhile, the three younger kids were building blanket forts in E’s room. I was invited up to see them and eagerly agreed (which is unusual for me; I often have to be dragged.) When I got to E’s doorway I saw that the only empty space was on her bed, which was still expanded to a king size from last night’s sibling sleepover.

I guess I could have shouted and yelled about the mess, but instead I was drawn to a tempting patch of sunlight on the bed. “I’m going to just be a cat for a while,” I told the kids as I lay down and closed my eyes. One by one they crawled over to me and snuggled into my side; I rubbed their bellies. It was sweet.

It was the kind of sweet moment I should have tried to remember an hour later, as I yelled at them for fighting, for not having cleaned their paintbrushes, and for touching the paint tubes before I was ready. We worked together on painting our seder plate and I made peace with the fact that it’s going to look like a cross between preschool art and a sloppy henna tattoo. One day I’ll get to design and make my own projects again. One day… but not today. IMG_3045

Tonight being movie night, we watched Airplane with the kids. Do anybody else’s kids ask questions about a movie like they need to know everything upfront?

“Hey, why is he leaving the taxi running?”

“Wait and find out,” we murmur.

“Why are they covered in seaweed?”

“Because it’s a parody,” I said. Now shut up, I thought.

“What are they doing?”

“You know what?” I whine, “You’re supposed to extrapolate from incomplete information! The movie will tell you what you need to know, when you need to know it! Now stop talking and watch the movie!”

Silence.

“Ohhhhh… I get it! Am I right? Did I get it?”

“Yes,” I sigh, “now STOP TALKING AND ENJOY THE MOVIE!”

They didn’t stop talking, but they did enjoy the movie — so much so that we promised to show them Airplane 2 next time.

Guys, I’m tired. I’m too tired to come up with a witty ending. Today was good on the whole, with brief moments of despair. Not ideal, but I’ll take it.

 

bikes planes and automobiles · blogging · family fun · Independence · Jewy goodness · Kids · The COVID files · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 13: A day in the life…

8:10 a.m. – Awakened by birdsong (from my phone.) Mutter, “Shut up, birds!” and hit the nudnik button (it’s how Apple translates “snooze” into Hebrew.)

8:30 a.m. – Go downstairs, make coffee. Compile a grocery list for three households, written in order of the route I normally follow through the store. Divide list into two so Mr. December and I can divide and conquer.

9:00 a.m. – Mr. December phones his parents to say hi.

9:03 a.m. – Compile my grocery list for four households, with colour-coding for clarity.

9:10 a.m. – I’m trying to find reusable bags and bins that match the colour-coding on my list. Eventually I give up and grab some coloured clothespins instead.

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10:00 a.m. – Good thing I gave up on the reusable bags: just got to No Frills and discovered that they aren’t allowing reusable bags due to COVID. Bins are ok. We line up to get into the store, armed with clipboards (and attached pens) and clothespins.

10:10 a.m. – Still standing in line, I start to sing “You’ll Be Back” from Hamilton. Mr. December joins me. Nobody else does, even after I belt my fruitiest “Everybodeeee!” during the “da-da-da” part. I’m disappointed. I really wanted to start one of those heartwarming “we’re all singing together” moments.

10:25 a.m. – Finally made it inside. Sanitize hands. Clip coloured clothespins to different parts of the cart so I can sort according to where it’s eventually going.

10:35 a.m. – Sailing through the produce section. Unbeknownst to me, Mr. December is moving at a snail’s pace — he never does the shopping, so he doesn’t know the store very well. He also never cooks, so he doesn’t know which products I usually buy.

10:45 a.m. – In the kosher meat section. Grab a whole chicken that’s 30% off because I’ve either got to cook it or freeze it by tomorrow. I take just a few things because my freezer isn’t that big.

10:50 a.m. – It’s become apparent that this colour-coding in my cart will only go so far. My stuff has taken over every other section.

11:20 a.m. – I’ve finished my list. Phone Mr. December, who is only two thirds of the way through his, and has been unable to find a dozen things so far.

11:25 a.m. – Find every one of the items he couldn’t. Take on part of the rest of the list.

11:30 a.m. – Standing in line at the cash with two fully loaded grocery carts, I’m fully ready to defend myself to anyone who gives me the stink-eye or berates me for hoarding during a crisis… but nobody does. First no parking lot sing-along, and now this? I’m not sure how much more disappointment I can take.

11:35 a.m. – At the front of the line, unloading the carts according to household. I’m chatting with one of my favourite cashiers. When she gets to the whole chicken, she looks at the labels and calls the meat department. It seems there was a label that read $8-ish and another one on top of it that read $5-ish. Was the 30% off the higher price or the lower one, she asked. Turns out it’s 30% off the lowest price. That’s one cheap chicken – maybe I should have bought 10.

11:45 a.m. – Still unloading my own groceries. “The funny thing is,” I say to Mr. December, “This is roughly the size of my usual weekly grocery shop!” The cashier chuckles in agreement – she’s seen me get an enormous amount of groceries into one of those smaller carts (all that Tetris I played as a kid really paid off!)

12:00 p.m. – We’re done and on the road to drop off groceries for both sets of parents. At my parents’ house, we leave two bins of food by the side door (closest to the kitchen.) As we’re leaving my mom calls out, “Hey!” and waves a plastic bag at me. I walk back to the house, stop six feet away, lean towards her and pluck the bag from between her outstretched fingers. It’s stuff for the kids… and us. There’s chocolate.

12:15 p.m. – We’re at my in-laws’ house delivering their groceries. They also give us stuff to give the kids… and there’s chocolate in this bag too. I could get used to delivering groceries in exchange for chocolate.

12:30 p.m. – Back home. I mobilize my child labour force and they dutifully tote groceries in from the car. E isn’t really adding any efficiency since she’s taking single items out of bags too heavy for her, but it’s adorable watching her carry a single giant box of Cheerios. When it’s all in the house the kids run off to the backyard to play Pirates for the fourth day running.

1:00 p.m. – At the computer with R, trying to find the Zoom address for the class that starts right this minute. I’m not the only one who’s baffled – there’s a whole thread on Google Classroom with people chiming in and asking where it is. After 20 minutes I give up and let R play outside again.

1:40 p.m. – Kids ask me if they can clean the car. Yes. YES! A thousand times YES. I hand over my keys.

1:50 p.m. – Reading email at the kitchen table. It dawns on me that I’ve seen two kids walk past me with two separate boxes of baby wipes. I try not to ask questions I don’t want the answer to, but I can’t help myself: “What are you doing with all those wipes?”

1:51 p.m. – “We’re cleaning the outside of the car!”  I can’t decide whether to be upset at the misuse of resources or impressed by their initiative and independence.

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2:00 p.m. – Am a slave to the car cleaning crew. They’re ostensibly doing the work, but I’m on call to troubleshoot problems with the hand vac. When I can’t, I have to lug the upright vacuum upstairs and outside. When that turns out to suck (or to not suck – I’m never sure how to express that when it comes to vacuums) I bring the Shop Vac upstairs. It needs to be emptied and cleaned before it can be used. As I clean the Shop Vac I reflect on how great it is that the kids are cleaning the car for me. It’s saving me so… much… time! (Right?)

3:30 p.m. – Covered in dust. Kids have decided they’re “on break” and are biking and scooting up and down the street. I’m on my knees vacuuming the crevices of the van floor. It’s oddly satisfying. Phone vibrates. Apparently the food I ordered from a local cafe as a way of supporting neighbourhood businesses is ready for pickup. Decide that it really doesn’t matter that I’m covered in dust – I’ll bike fast enough for the wind to blow the dust off me. We ride out, collect our order, ride home.

4:00 p.m. – Take a shower. E joins me and uses the handheld showerhead as her own personal shower. R whines at me to let her use my bathtub. No way. Absolutely not. It’s against my policy. After a while I ignore her pleas and she goes away.

4:20 p.m. – Trying to calm my racing heart. I was in the walk-in closet selecting clothes when I discovered a face behind my shirts. R was lying in wait for me all this time. Her revenge complete, she runs away.

4:30 p.m. – Attending a Zoom Kabbalat Shabbat service with our synagogue. If it was this easy to get to services in person, I’d be a regular.

6:00 p.m. – Time for Shabbat dinner. Instead of yelling for everyone to come to the table, I get out my guitar and play Shabbat songs from camp. This is nice. All here? Yup. Light candles, bless the children, bless the wine, bless the challah. Eat. E cries that there’s nothing she wants and would I please get her some pasta with tomato sauce? No, I won’t. I’m sitting down enjoying a Shabbat meal that consists entirely of things she eats. She cries. Mr. December directs her to the library if she wants to continue to cry. She goes.

6:10 p.m. – I don’t know how long she was in the library, but E is now back at the table, happily eating chicken.

7:00 p.m. – Dessert time: my favourite chocolate hazelnut cookies, which we picked up at the cafe earlier. N doesn’t like his – that’s ok, more for me. Yummm…

9:00 p.m. – After family movie watching, my stomach hurts. Too many cookies. I feel like this:

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10:00 p.m. – Haven’t written my blog post yet. I’d better get started.

11:37 p.m. – Done, and with 23 minutes to spare. My goal of blogging daily is safe for one more day.

bikes planes and automobiles · blogging · DIY · family fun · Kids · love and marriage · The COVID files

Day 11: Mr. Golden Sun

Wow – what a day it was out there today! Sun, warm temperatures, empty roads. Perfect conditions for a first semi-independent bike ride. While everyone else was busy, I took E outside and helped her learn to ride her Elsa bike. Thanks to the Metrolinx Crosstown construction and COVID-19, our street is now a dead end with traffic of maybe 1 car every hour. We took full advantage of that fact.

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Back inside, it seems that we’re slowly figuring things out. R, who once again fell apart when I suggested doing some school work, perked right up when I suggested she work with one or two friends via video conference. Her friends were game too, and they ended up working on math together for almost an hour. We’ll have to try again tomorrow to see if these results can be replicated. If they can, this could be a game changer for us.

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I realized something today: the days that I take my Ritalin are the days that seem to flow the best. I can’t point to any particular thing that is different, but everything seems more manageable. Say yes to drugs, kids.

My grocery order, which I submitted last Thursday and was supposed to be ready for pickup on Monday at 2 p.m., was finally ready for pickup last night. I’m getting the feeling that I should sign up now for another slot, so that I can get fresh produce and milk in a week or two. Either that, or I could call the small grocery store down the road and order from them. It’s probably better to support the local businesses anyway, if we want them to still be there in six months.

In that spirit, I ordered a dozen chocolate-hazelnut cookies from 3SK, a local cafe that makes amazing food. Sure, I could have ordered real food, but these cookies are the best ever. If my kids are good I might let them share one amongst themselves. Sure, eating all those cookies might not be the best thing for my body, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for the sake of the economy.

I just want to pause here to say how awesome Mr. December is. He worked hard (from home) all day and since he came out of his office he’s done nothing but eat dinner with us, play with the kids outside, and play with the kids in the attic. If they fall asleep quickly tonight I’ll have him to thank.

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I got a fair bit of work done today: I re-installed R’s bedroom curtains, fixed the knobs on her closet door, and staged a major cleanup of The Makery (our workshop/craft room). The Makery isn’t done yet, but I can actually see some surfaces now, so there’s hope.

There’s hope in many ways — hope that we might finally be finding ways to maintain our sanity, hope that I can get the house tidied up now that I’m home all the time, hope that this confinement might even be good for our family. You’d better have hope, too — hope that my kids say or do something outrageous — because otherwise, this blog is going to get real boring real fast.

better homes than yours · bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · parenting

Romanticizing the morning commute

We’re living at my parents’ house this year, while our house undergoes extensive (and expensive – I always wonder how often those two get misheard as each other) renovations. Yes, after so much deliberation we’re finally gutting our little bungalow, adding a second storey and an attic, and completely rearranging the main floor and basement. It’s exciting and I want to tell you all about it, but not today.

Anyhow, as I was saying, we’re living at my parents’ house this year. Normally we’d drive to school – at 8 km, the distance is too great to be able to bike there. Living with my parents, though, puts us a mere 2 km from school – and so we bike as often as we can.

If you’re one of my two loyal readers, you know how I feel about biking. Imagine how exciting it is that three of my children can finally ride their own bikes. I have to say, the bike commute is something I’m really going to miss when we move back to our own house.

Despite their initial complaints (“I’m tired!” “This is hard!” “It’s too far!”), the children can now do the 2 km ride with no complaints and without stopping… on a good day. On a bad day, the ride is 25 minutes of whining, stopping, crying, kicking, screaming, complaining… On our most recent (frustrating) ride to school, Mr. December looked at me and said, “Remember this when we’re back in our own house and can’t bike anymore. Don’t romanticize this biking to school thing. This is terrible!”

I actually don’t mind that the ride is sometimes more an exercise in frustration than just exercise. One of our parenting goals is to help our children develop some serious grit. As often as I can, I like to tell them, “It’s okay that it’s hard. You can do hard things!” I like to remind them, as they pedal right up the incline at the end of our street, that they used to have to get off their bikes and walk up that “hill.” I’m hoping that this contributes to a growth mindset, where the kids see that with repeated practice the morning ride becomes easier, and more good than bad.

But every day, easy or hard, good or bad, we start the day with physical activity, fresh air, and a tour of the neighbourhood where we greet the same faces day after day. It’s awesome even when it’s not, if you know what I mean.

And I have to say, it makes my heart feel very full every time I see this:IMG_3062

Or this:

IMG_2997

And yes, those photos were actually taken en route to school. Aren’t we lucky to have such a picturesque route? I’m going to miss this – and I’m not romanticizing!

 

 

bikes planes and automobiles · Independence · Kids

The Summer of K

My, it has been a long time. Is it St. Swithin’s day already?

*crickets chirp*

Right, I forgot. I’m old now, and Simpsons references just date me. Younger people than I just gape incredulously when I explain that yes, The Simpsons used to be extremely funny. Point being, we’re all getting older.

This summer saw an amazing milestone for K: she made friends with a girl on our block (note: this is amazing because we don’t go to the local school.) I immediately let her know that she could walk to her friend’s house by herself as long as she let me know when she was leaving home. Thus began the Victoria Day long weekend (third weekend in May, for my non-Canadian readers.)

Since that weekend, I’ve become used to the shouts of “I’m going to K’s house!” (yes, K’s new best friend also has a name that starts with K, which is quite similar to our K’s name. Think along the lines of “Layla and Lyla” and you’re on the right track.) It has become normal to have K’s friend at our dinner table or in our backyard. Their bikes kept each other company on our driveway. Toys, crafts, and even clothes went back and forth.

It was a major parenting milestone for me, too: the first time one of my children could spend all day entertaining herself independently. K would leave the house and return with her friend, then yell, “Eema, we’re going biking in the cul de sac,” and leave again. An hour or so later I’d hear the door and shouts of, “we’re just getting a drink and a snack!” and the slam of the back door as they ran out to the treehouse. It was idyllic and nostalgic and simply wonderful.

Since the summer ended, many people have commented that K has matured so much since last school year. I see it too. What was the catalyst? Was it the close friendship with K? Or the knowledge that she is trusted to navigate a small part of the world by herself? Is it that she can, in a small way, manage her own social schedule without relying on adult availability? Or is it all a coincidence, a constellation of events made possible by her increasing maturity?

It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I seem to have, at times, gained a kid and yet at other times to have lost one; what matters is the joy of watching my first fledgeling spread her wings just a little bit; what matters is the bicycles on the driveway, and the closeness between the girls who ride them.

Bikes