Camping it up · family fun · Keepin' it real · Resorting to Violins

Day 527: My heart is full

…and so is my house.

The three big kids came back from music camp today. Just like last time we picked them up from a camp bus, they talked the entire way home about how great it was. Then K said,

“Eema, I think I’d like to take viola lessons from a teacher again and maybe also join an orchestra. I think I’ll practice more if I actually have to keep up with the rest of the viola section or else sit there not playing and feel like an idiot.”

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

(Okay, I mean, you couldn’t—I was sitting in the driver’s seat and I’m sure I couldn’t have been knocked out of it, as I was wearing my seatbelt. Why is “knock me over with a feather” even a saying?)

K’s announcement surprised and delighted me. I also know full well how important it is to keep that momentum going, strike while the iron is hot, and so on; so I’ve started my search for a viola teacher. I want one who will take the time to learn how K learns best, and who will come to our house to teach. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

That’s only the half of it, dear readers.

R and N did Musical Theatre at camp, which this year consisted of a “Broadway revue”-style show. They learned songs and choreography for thirteen numbers—and both had a fabulous time doing it. Tonight we were in the car on our way home and they started singing some of the numbers they’d learned. K joined in. When they finished the number, someone asked, “what’s next?” and I jumped in:

“Do you hear the people sing?”

Everyone joined in: “Singing the song of angry men…” and as all six of us were sitting in the minivan singing Broadway musicals together, I took Mr. December’s hand in mine and thought, This is it. I’m living the dream.

Best of all, the kids are already planning to go back to music camp next summer.

Camping it up · DIY · family fun · Homeschool · Kids · water you paddling? · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 520: Another Quiet Week

Sometimes life gives us do-overs.

We dropped K, N, and R off at music camp today. Last time we did a camp drop-off, they jumped out of the car without looking back; today they actually took the time to say goodbye. I guess that’s progress.

It’s brutally hot and humid right now, so I decided that after we’d unloaded the kids at camp, Mr. December and I would take E to a beach on the way home. We ended up at something called “Whale Beach” in Orillia: a lovely little beach with a playground, splash pad, kayak rental, and snack bars.

The water was warm—almost too warm to be refreshing—and we dunked ourselves before inflating our kayaks and setting out for a paddle. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I need a better kayak. Last night we went to the beach downtown and I saw a folding kayak and another kayak that comes apart for ease of transport; time for me to do some more research, I think.

Where was I? Oh, yes.

With the three big kids gone this week, I’m hoping to get some serious work done. Everyone knows that a great way to ensure you’ll do things is to be accountable to others; so I’m telling you what all I plan to have done by this time next week.

  • Cut, paint, and install drawer fronts in library.
  • Finish shelving all library books.
  • Finalize which book sections we have and order labels for the shelves.
  • Firm up our travel plans; buy plane tickets and book accommodations.
  • Learn to use Homeschool Planet, an online planner that looks like it’ll make my life easier. Plug in all the curriculum information and figure out our schedule.
  • Prepare history binders for R and E.
  • Make time for myself every day: see some friends, paint some rocks, go kayaking, whatever.

Looks like a full week, doesn’t it? I think I can do it as long as the weather cools down. If it doesn’t, well… I’m no Wicked Witch of the West, but I’m mellltiiiiing…

ADHD · blogging · Camping it up · Keepin' it real · parenting · whine and cheese

Day 515: I had it a minute ago…

I need an office with a door.

I was just thinking up a blog post about something that’s been percolating in the back of my mind for a few days—

“Eema? Next time you go shopping you should buy more peaches.”

I look at the interloper and say, “I’m sorry, I’m working on something. Is this a time-sensitive issue? Because if not, now is not the time.”

“Oh, yeah. Sorry. It was kind of random.”

So anyhow, I was thinking of this blog post and then realizing that the kids go to music camp for a week starting on Sunday, and I have to book them in for COVID tests—

“Hey, Eema? You know how I told you my friend Noa will be visiting from Montreal in September? Well, she’s actually coming tomorrow.”

“Have you made any plans? No? Okay, keep me posted.”

Back to work. Our home insurance company changed names and account numbers on us when I wasn’t looking and so now I have to straighten out the whole mess before our insurance gets terminated. I’ve already emailed and called our insurance broker, but it seems that I’m going to have to—

“Look! Do you like what I made?” A craft of some sort is thrust into my face at close range. I can’t even see what it is.

“I’m trying to work. Can I see it later?”

“Okaay…” says the young artist.

Oh, crud. I just remembered that I have a few online purchases to return. I keep deferring it, but I should definitely get that ball rolling today, before the return window closes. I’ll start with the lucite rods from Amazon—

“Eema, will you brush my hair?” a freshly-bathed E inquires from the top of the stairs.

“I’m trying to work. Can you ask someone else?”

It’s pretty obvious that I won’t get anything done sitting at my desk. I might as well go work on the drawer fronts I need to build for the library. After some frustrating measuring, during which I discover that the drawers will need to be slightly out of square to fill the space correctly, I finally realize that I can solve the problem by just removing the central part of the face frame. I’m hammering at the back of it, trying not to wreck anything else—

“Eema?”

“WHAT?” I huff, putting my hammer down with exaggerated care.

“Um, I was just going to ask if you’re not doing anything, could you finish making the Wacky Mac I started? But I can see that you’re doing something, so I guess I’ll just do it myself.”

And so on… all. day. long… Which is why you’re getting this narrative of my day instead of a thoughtful piece about raising kids who are impervious to peer pressure (it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.) It’s 10:10 p.m. and the kids just finally—

“EEMA! Are you coming to tuck us in or not?”

Ugh. Just once I want to finish my thought process without interruption. It’s past bedtime and I didn’t actually finish doing any of the things I mentioned above. Some of them didn’t even get past the conceptual stage. And I’m sure that for every one thing I remembered to think about doing, there are two more that just completely slipped my mind.

Tune in tomorrow, when I start packing the kids up for camp and they all disappear for several hours so they don’t have to help. Maybe if I take my laptop into their rooms and surround myself with piles of clothes and towels, they’ll scatter to avoid having to help… and I’ll be able to get something done.

Camping it up · crafty · Kids · The COVID files

Day 500: Wait, what?

It has apparently been five hundred days since the first COVID shutdown began in Toronto. Whoa. That’s a long time.

I remember last June, chatting on the phone with a friend and commenting that since we figured that school would be a bit of a write-off this year, we were going to homeschool our kids. Her response was incredulous:

“You really think we’re still going to be dealing with this in September?”

Yup. We were. And we still are. Crazy, huh?


I packed a camp bag for E: she starts full-day camp tomorrow. It made me realize how much stuff we’re missing because we’re homeschooling. Things like a lunch bag, a backpack big enough for a two towels and said lunch bag, and a… mask lanyard? What the heck is a mask lanyard? I wondered.

A Google search later, I realized I had this lanyard thing under control. I went downstairs to the Makery and found a length of yellow grosgrain ribbon in one bin, then grabbed a few plastic snaps and set to work with the snap pliers. Three minutes later, I had a lanyard. Ah, the magic of the Makery.

Image description: A yellow and green striped ribbon with yellow snaps on each end.

My brother and his two kids are in town right now, so we’ve had a few sleepovers for the kids and their cousins. Today there were six kids running around my house and I have to say that my niece and nephew fit right in: she attached herself to one of the hammock chairs and announced, “I’m a chyrsalis!” in her adorable five-year-old voice, and he went down to the Makery and came back upstairs with a piece of upholstery foam and a plan to make his own squishy toy shaped like a Minecraft sword.

Smart, cute, and they know what the Makery is for. We must be related.

Camping it up · Kids

Day 499: They’re Baaack…

Three hours later than expected, the buses finally pulled into the parking lot.

The kids talked over each other all the way home, telling one story after another. It’s 10:25 and R and K don’t feel tired at all, so they’re sitting down here still talking about camp.

I’m ending here because I want to listen to more camp stories. I’ll be back tomorrow night.

Camping it up · Keepin' it real · Kids · The COVID files

Day 489: Like Normal

My kids’ camp has passed the fourteen-day mark, and everyone at camp tested negative for COVID; now they can all put away their masks, sing together, hug their friends. For the first time in 489 days, everything feels normal (the old normal, not the “new” one everyone’s always talking about.) Lucky them.

Here at home things feel pretty normal too. My to-do list is long and getting longer by the day, it seems. I’ve not accomplished what I had hoped to in the past two weeks. It might be time to throw half my “to-do” list into a “to-don’t” list instead.

(Do you like that one? I misread my friend’s post on facebook as being about her “to-don’t” list and we’ve now decided to start using it as a phrase.)

Over the past six years, I’ve had friends look at my kids and say something like, “I don’t know how you do it with four!” My stock response is that actually, four kids are easier than one. And now that I’ve had an only child for two weeks straight, I can confirm it. Unless E has a playdate, she’s clamoring for my attention even when she knows that I’m trying to work. And really, I’d rather be giving her my attention than working on trip planning and curriculum planning and the five dozen little odd jobs around the house. Sadly, sometimes I do have to buckle down and work.

I’m thankful that E has her friend who lives on our block, whose parents are as cool with spontaneity as I am, and who is free all day, every day. They’ve had epic playdates lasting four, five, even six hours of continuous play and absolutely zero conflict. It’s beautiful watching them play (eavesdropping on their play, really); it may not be an entire mask-free summer camp, but it’s E’s small taste of life being a bit more normal.

Camping it up · Keepin' it real · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 488: Isn’t it Ironic?

My kids’ summer camp has a system where parents can send an email to their kids, and then the kids write a message back that gets scanned and emailed to the parents. I think snail mail and real letters are more fun, but then again I also understand the relationship between a cassette tape and a pencil—by which I mean, of course, that I might be just a bit old-fashioned.

Anyhow, I decided to try it. I sent emails to all three kids; by the next day I had two replies, each consisting of two sentences along the lines that I’ve come to expect. Nothing from K, though.

That was on Sunday. Today I finally received K’s reply. You can imagine my excitement when the preview on my screen showed an entire page of text written in K’s cursive (which is way better than her printing.) A real letter! Finally! I clicked “print.”

When it emerged from the printer, I could have cried. It wasn’t that the on-screen preview had poor resolution, it was that I could barely see what K had written. Clearly she wrote her message in mechanical pencil (which she favours) or with some other pen that doesn’t scan well. I feel like the guy in the Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough at Last.” Finally, I have a nice long letter to read! It’s in my hands! And… it’s unreadable.

I spent some time trying to guess at words and letters. I made a darker photocopy to see if it would help (it did and it didn’t.) At one point I was starting to feel like an archaeologist trying to piece together an ancient manuscript.

Image description: a page of nearly indecipherable writing on white paper with a dotted border line. Instructions at the top say “write your message inside the dotted lines.”

Sadly, just like piecing together an ancient manuscript, deciphering this letter won’t be the work of a few minutes. I’m going to hunker down with some bright lighting and several different copies and see what I come up with.

ADHD · Camping it up · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 487: He gets it from me.

Dear Eema,

Thanks for your letter. Please send me more letters.

Blah blah blah blah blabbity blah blah.

There. Now it’s long enough. I can go get tuck.

Love, N.

My response:

Dear N,

Thank you for the thoughtful letter you sent. I loved the story about how blah blah blah blabbity the blah in blah. You have such a way with words.

I can’t wait to see what you write next.

Love, Eema.


I think we can all agree that the kid is a creative genius, right?

I mean, first a giant “Hi!” and now the blah story. How can I possibly compete with that? (I welcome your suggestions.)

The girls have written similarly short letters. All they have to say is that camp is fine, and also can I please send:

  • More fidget toys
  • More Rainbow Loom
  • Candy
  • Candy
  • Their Ritalin
  • Candy
  • What about the Rainbow Loom?

As it so happens, I will be sending more fidget toys and Ritalin. I guess I can stuff some Rainbow Loom into the package as well.


There’s no need to wonder where N gets his sense of humour. I was reminded of that fact as I worked on our homeschool yearbook today. I needed something eye-catching and fun for the first page, and settled on “We heart BFHS because…”

I, in all my smartass glory, invented a few quotes to complete the sentence:

  • “I can go to class in my pyjamas. And there’s no homework.”
  • “I feel like they’ve known me all my life.”
  • “The teachers will do anything to help the students succeed.”
  • “I feel at home here.”
  • “I’ve learned more here than I did at any other school.”
  • “Because why not?” (N’s current favourite thing to say)

And then at the bottom, below a bunch of photos: “BFHS. Like one big, happy family.”

See? My kids come by their smartassery honestly. Actually, from both sides of the family. They never had a chance of escaping it.

Camping it up · Keepin' it real · Kids · parenting · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 480: Monologuing

Today the kids’ overnight camp sent us an email with a link to view pictures of the last few days at camp. I clicked immediately, of course. Had you been inside my head at the time, you’d have heard the following.


Let’s start with July 9. Not my kid… not my kid… not my kid… oh, that’s my friend’s kid. He’s in N’s cabin. N must be somewhere in this set. Hmm… they’re playing basketball… his friend has the ball… where is N?

Oh, there he is. Of course. He’s standing on the bleachers—wearing fuzzy pajama pants and a fedora—chatting with another boy. Why am I not surprised?

Moving on…

That redheaded girl looks familiar. Oh! That’s R’s bestie. I bet R will be in a few pics from this batch.

I’d know that bathing suit anywhere. Nice to see that R is wearing her long-sleeved sun protection suit. Oh, and here’s one of her and her friend snuggled together in a beach towel… and here they are, learning how to play volleyball. Better them than me—I hate volleyball.

There’s K. The fuzzy purple sweater was a dead giveaway; it makes her look like she’s part Muppet, and the shaggy hair does nothing to combat that image. Oh, look—she’s making a boomerang in woodshop. They’d better not be teaching her how to use it.

Everyone’s dressed up and looking clean—must be Shabbat. Why is everyone but N sitting in their folding camp chair? Did his chair ever make it to his cabin after we dropped it off? Well, at least his tuxedo-printed t-shirt looks dressy.


While I was perusing the photos, I got a call from camp.

“Everything’s fine! I just wanted to tell you how K is doing.”

Apparently K has rated camp at a 7/10 because of COVID but was adamant that it could never score 10/10 because she’s not allowed to have her phone with her. Furthermore, she’s already identified the unequal treatment of campers based on gender (boys are allowed to walk around shirtless, while girls can’t wear crop tops.) Not that I was worried about her adjusting to camp, but it’s still reassuring to know that K is comfortable enough at camp to be herself… her injustice-detecting, opinionated, phone-loving self.

I wrote each of them a letter and packed it with their stationery, so K, N, and R will see my letter as soon as they open up their kit to write one to me. Still, I should probably write to them again soon.

Or I could just print and send all of my recent blog posts. They might like that better.


Mr. December and I got our second COVID shots today. If you don’t hear from me tomorrow, don’t worry—I hear the fever and chills rarely last longer than a day.

Camping it up · family fun · Kids · lists · The COVID files

Day 474: A little *too* quiet

I don’t remember this kind of silence in our house, like, ever. Which is silly, because there have been times when the kids have all gone to the grandparents, and there have been times when Mr. December has taken all four kids out for upwards of seven hours, but for some reason this silence feels different. It lacks the tension of “How long til they burst through that door?” because I know that the three big kids won’t be back until July is over.

We drove them up to camp (no bus this year because of COVID,) which was about two hours of driving. Not far from camp, we detoured to a playground for the girls to enjoy some swinging for the last time til camp is over (I think.)

“I don’t think we’ll have time for hugs when we get to camp,” I told the kids. “They’ll be trying to move cars along as quickly as possible. So I want my hugs now, please.”

It’s a good thing I got those hugs before we arrived at camp, because they were set up for maximum efficiency: three cars at a time came to a stop in front of one building to offload anything the campers couldn’t carry to their cabins, then advanced to another spot for said campers to get out of the car. Counsellors were milling around with signs proclaiming their cabin number, coming over to greet their campers and spirit them away to the cabins.

My kids were so eager to get out that I had to remind them to stop pushing and give N a minute to gather all his stuff (he was seated right next to the door.) They hopped out of the van like paratroopers jumping out of a plane—one after another, all wearing backpacks—and walked away with their counsellors. None of them turned to look back. None of them said goodbye. I guess that’s a very good thing.

A friend asked me what I plan to do for the next three weeks. My answer was a long list of home maintenance, homeschool planning, and other tasks; also I do still have a six-year-old here for the month (she spent the day out with my parents today.) I’ve often felt that E misses out on activities that she would enjoy because they’re too easy or boring for the big kids, so this is an opportunity to go places and do things that E wants.

She has a list:

  • Treetop trekking
  • Swimming
  • Bike rides
  • Kayaking at the beach
  • Backyard playdates with friends
  • Sleepovers at grandparents’ homes

In case you couldn’t tell, she’s pretty excited about being the only child, with both parents and all four grandparents available to dote on her. Just when I thought she couldn’t be any more spoiled with attention…

Tomorrow I’m going to figure out a schedule that balances work I need to do with fun I need to have. Tonight I’m giving myself the night off.