DIY · Fibro Flares · it's my potty

Day 397: For want of a flapper

Am I dating myself when I reference old nursery rhymes in my title? If you said “yes,” then get a haircut and get off my lawn, you reckless kids!

For want of a flapper, E’s bedroom got flooded.

Yes, there were a few intermediate steps involved: because the flapper was defective, water kept flowing into the toilet bowl from the tank. That’s not usually a problem, but one of the kids had clogged the toilet and forgot to tell us. No water was getting through that clog, so instead of just flowing through and out of the toilet bowl and running up my water bill, the constant flow ended up overflowing the toilet bowl. By the time someone went upstairs and noticed it, there was a large puddle on the hallway floor outside the bathroom, stealthily creeping into E’s room and covering half of the floor.

The good news was that the clog seemed to be mostly toilet paper, not poop, and because there was so much running water any grossness was pretty diluted anyway. We still disinfected the heck out of the floor, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t a stinking pool of raw sewage. It was just a lot of water that looked and smelled like water, and that took more than ten beach towels to sop up (said towels then went into the washing machine on the “sanitary” cycle.)

I really should have replaced that flapper months ago. Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

Or as Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel says, “Shoulda, but didn’ta.”

And now, the daily update: Last night I finally found my moist-heat heating pad in a corner of K’s bedroom. Using it helped me to fall asleep easily despite the pain in my legs. Today my legs are still painful and fatigued, but my brain seems to have been spared the usual fibro-fog™.

There’s a 14-day series of talks called Love How You Look Now that I’ve been watching for the past three days. I think it’s beyond time to put in the work of getting past my body image issues, if not for myself then for my kids. The sessions so far have been eye opening and thought provoking. I don’t think that my thoughts are coherent enough to explain them here, but I will one day.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to teach my kids how to replace the toilet flapper; and then we’ll have a little lesson on “Why you shouldn’t keep Eema’s heating pad in your room for months on end.”

Darn Tootin' · DIY · family fun · Homeschool · Resorting to Violins

Day 395: Finally, the Payoff

Yesterday I used my Music Therapy degree for the first time in what feels like ages.

I painstakingly transcribed the main theme of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (aka Ode to Joy) using some musical notation software. Then I listened over and over again to the original orchestral piece, stopping every few bars, humming, transcribing the parts to solfege, and then notating them in C major, the only key in which E can play her flute.

It brought back memories of a fourth-year assignment we had in one of our Music Therapy classes: to take a piece of orchestral music and arrange it for a hypothetical group of clients, using common music therapy instruments. I chose Also Sprach Zarathustra (a.k.a. the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey) and arranged it for three reed horns, metallophone, bass drum, and piano.

This time I’m arranging a piece for my family to play; the kids all seem to enjoy playing music together and it teaches them how to listen and respond to each other, so I’ve made it my goal to do some ensemble work with them. Several hours spent on a musical arrangement seems excessive—but then again, how else will I be able to get an arrangement for flute, clarinet, guitar, viola, and piano? And if I could find such a thing, I highly doubt that the parts would be perfectly matched to the kids’ disparate levels.

No, this was definitely a job I had to do myself. Finally, all those years of musical dictation and transposition have paid off!

DIY · family fun · what's cookin'

Day 394: Sweet

Hey, look what we made! From scratch!

Image description: a small glass bowl being held in someone’s hand. The bowl has a small amount of brown liquid in it. Wooden countertop in background.

Yup, that’s maple syrup. Remember when we tapped a maple tree in my parents’ backyard? We ended up collecting about 500mL (roughly 2 cups) of sap. Yesterday we put it into our makeshift double-boiler (metal mixing bowl resting on top of a pot of boiling water) and let it evaporate for most of the afternoon. We could see by the residue on the sides of the bowl just how much water had already evaporated.

We ended up with maybe 20 mL of maple syrup… but it looks and tastes like real maple syrup. Even though we knew this was how it was made, it still feels a bit magical and unreal to have made it ourselves from start to finish.

Now the question remains: who gets the privilege of using this syrup on their pancakes?

blogging · crafty · DIY · Fibro Flares · Keepin' it real

Day 376: Coming Attractions

My elbow hurts pretty badly right now, so I’ll make this brief. Over the next week or so, you can expect to see some of the following posts:

  • Further Adventures with Epoxy
  • Stuffed Animal Upholstered Bed Tutorial
  • Make a Dollhouse Nightstand out of a Feta Cheese Container Tutorial
  • Holy Hell, my Elbow Still Hurts
  • Planned Boredom
  • Close Encounters with Customer Service
  • This Term in Homeschool
  • Did we really make our own maple syrup?

Of course, if my elbow doesn’t get some relief soon, you’ll likely be subjected treated to a string of guest posts by everyone from Mr. December right on down to E. If nothing else, it’ll be highly entertaining.

crafty · DIY

Day 375: We tried this at home.

“Clothing worn during the process should not be removed from the work area? Do not inhale? Avoid contact with skin?!?” K looked up from the label she was reading and asked me, “Why do they even make this stuff if it’s so toxic?”

We were getting ready to make our mini river table to test the effect of heat and general abuse on the epoxy. I’ll admit to some trepidation when I read “for professional use only” on the epoxy bucket; when it comes to building stuff I’m definitely more dilettante than professional.

We did it anyway.

Yesterday I cut two scraps of kiln-dried live-edge wood, along with some particle board to make a mould. This morning I assembled the mould around my two pieces of wood, using clamps to hold everything in place while I drilled.

Then I took out the wood pieces and lined the whole box with packing tape. That should make it easier to release the epoxy from the mould later on.

After reading the alarming safety warnings, K and I got suited up (this is where Mr. December’s university engineering coveralls come in handy) and took the supplies outside. We mixed some colour into this batch of epoxy; the second batch will be clear, allowing us to see some of the live edge of the wood.

Then we poured, at which point I realized exactly how off-level our table was. I carried the mould downstairs and made sure it was in a level place to dry. It soon became apparent that the epoxy was flowing under the wood pieces—not the look I was going for—so I used my clamps to hold the wood down to the bottom of the mould.

And now we wait 21 more hours before we can pour the second layer of epoxy.

DIY · family fun · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Kids · what's cookin'

Day 372: Everybody helps

One of my favourite memories of Passover as a child is actually a composite of pretty much every Passover until I left my parents’ house. What I remember most isn’t the seder itself, or the food we made; it’s that everybody was involved in making it together.

Mum and Dad have always hosted at least one seder (and usually both,) and the last couple of days leading up to Passover (as well as the day of Passover itself) were spent in the kitchen, all of us rotating in or out, with Mum and sometimes an Aunty giving instructions. Kids were put to work peeling boiled eggs, making charoset, chopping horseradish for maror, setting the table, and sticking our little thumbs into balls of cookie dough so we could fill the indentations with jam. Dad would usually be busy running to the store for last-minute ingredients or bringing folding tables and chairs up from the basement to accommodate the twenty-or-so people who were invited to the seder.

I want my kids to look back at Passover and feel the same warm fuzzy feeling I do when they think of the preparation. So I give them jobs to do, even when those jobs take them twice as long and leave twice as much mess than if I’d done it myself.

Today K grated apples for charoset and then passed them off to E, who mixed in all the other ingredients before spooning it onto tiny individual appetizer plates. N made a batch of flourless brownies (although I did have to get involved quite a bit at the end.) And Mr. December did his part to keep things moving smoothly by taking apart our kettle.

Yeah, you read that right. Our kettle stopped working two days ago, and Mr. December ordered a set of special screwdrivers so he could take it apart and see if maybe he could fix it. Turns out he couldn’t fix it, but at least the kids got to see how a kettle is made.

Chag Sameach to all my family, friends, and readers. May you have a meaningful seder, and may your matzah never be soggy.

DIY · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Kids

Day 370: Pesach Cleaning

I may not be fully into Passover mode yet, but it looks like the kids are. They’ve been asking all week about cleaning the car: “When can we clean the car?” “Can we use the ShopVac?” “Will you help us take out the seats?” Truly, it was music to a mother’s ears.

Today was the day. All four kids went outside armed with vacuums, baby wipes, and giant boxes to hold all the stuff that came out of the car and needs to go into the house. There was enough clothing in there for every one of us to have an extra layer, plus some fleece blankets I keep in the car, plus an assortment of gloves (as expected at the end of winter) and socks (who’s taking their socks off in the car in February?). K got a bit obsessive about getting all the crumbs out of the cracks in the door sills. She took “a break” for a while and never went back out; the seats are still sitting on the driveway, but boy, are those door sills spotless.

I stopped by my parents’ house this evening to check on our sap bucket. There was a respectable 200mL of sweet, golden liquid. We strained it, poured it into a jar, and stowed it in my parents’ fridge. There will be a few more freezing nights next week, so we might get lucky and have enough sap to make a spoonful or two of syrup.

Image description: Two wooden chairs with padded seats: one has a green and pink fabric which is torn on the side; the other has a bright turquoise fabric in pristine condition. Table and other chairs in the background.

Oh, and the exciting stuff: I reupholstered our dining room chairs today! The last time I did it was just after my concussion (two years ago) and the fabric wasn’t particularly well-suited to the task. This time I used a heavier cotton twill that I’ve had lying around for ages. It’s my favourite colour, too.

Here’s my pro tip: sure, most people use a staple gun to attach the fabric to the underside of the seat, but in a pinch (like, say, if you run out of the right size of staples and the long ones stick out of the chair no matter what you do) you can actually use hot glue. That’s what I did two years ago, and although today I started with the staple gun, I moved to hot glue to finish up.

The colour of the new fabric makes me smile every time I see it. I think I should use the scraps to make matching socks for my chairs.

DIY · family fun · Homeschool

Day 369: Tapped Out

Image description: The trunk of a maple tree with a copper pipe sticking out of it. A plastic bucket is suspended from the tree with green twist-tie material.

Our field trip today took us to a farm in Stouffville, where we learned about how maple syrup is made. At first it felt almost comical, a caricature of such field trips; there was a puppet show featuring a tree and a squirrel. The older kids snickered through it, but later it became apparent that they retained every fact the puppets had mentioned.

Back at home, we decided to take my mum up on her offer to let us tap some of the maple trees in her backyard. Because of who I am, and who my parents are (by which I mean we like to save bits and pieces of “useful” things,) we had everything we needed: I had a huge (and very long) drill bit and a clear plastic bucket that once held several pounds of Laffy Taffy, and my parents just happened to have some short pieces of copper pipe sitting around.

The kids took turns using the drill and we hammered the pipe into the tree. Nothing. Maybe it was the wrong kind of tree.

So we went and found another maple and drilled into it. The sap started dripping a minute later. I jury rigged a way to hold the bucket in place and we watched as two droplets, then three, collected at the bottom of the bucket. By the time we were ready to leave there was probably about a tablespoon of sap at the bottom of our bucket; based on what we learned from the tree and squirrel puppets, that would make us one fortieth of a tablespoon of maple syrup.

So it was a pretty cool day overall. Still, I’m exhausted and everybody is annoying me. I think I’ll take a book and hide somewhere by myself.

DIY · education · family fun · Homeschool · Kids

Day 355: There are forts and there are Forts.

In case you missed it, the weather was gorgeous this morning. The sun was shining and the temperature was above zero, which in my children’s eyes is a license to play outside with no jacket. It was the nicest day we’ve had so far, I think.

Mr. December started the school day with chemistry class and then sent the kids out for a mid-morning break. After fifteen minutes of break he looked outside and said, “It feels pretty mean to make them come inside when they’re playing outside and really enjoying themselves.”

“So don’t make them come inside,” I said.

“Ah, the joys of homeschooling!” he enthused.

It was that kind of day. Formal school ended at 10:30 and never reconvened. N was busy working on a jigsaw puzzle of the Periodic Table of the Elements, E was playing a memory game involving the Hebrew alphabet, and R was doing some online geography quizzes and practicing her touch-typing. It seemed pretty educational, so I let them be.

After lunch they started building a Fort. I capitalized it because there are “forts” and then there are “Forts.” This one is the latter. It takes up most of my living room and is a marvel of engineering and design. Each kid has their own little den with a separate entrance. Best of all, they built it so that I can still sit on the couch—so nice of them to remember (I’ve certainly complained about their couch-swallowing forts enough times.)

Fort construction took a couple of hours during which they had to forage for materials and make sure to share the structural elements equitably. I heard negotiation and problem-solving. Mr. December came up from his office, listened a while, and pronounced today to be the quintessential homeschooling day. Very few lessons, but lots of learning. I could get used to this.

blogging · DIY · fame and shame · Sartorial stuff · The COVID files

Day 354: Where the Pockets Are

Interesting bit of trivia about yesterday’s post: the “rule” that inspired me to write about my rules didn’t even make it into the post because I forgot all about it. I was reminded tonight as we cleared the dinner table. Rule: every piece of cutlery that comes off the table, used or not, goes in the dishwasher—you never know who has licked what. That’s not really a concern anymore, though.

For someone who doesn’t really like fashion, I seem to spend a lot of time thinking about clothing. I’m pleased to report that I took in my dress from eShakti, and it now looks “much better” according to Mr. December. I have two pairs of pants with proper pockets that I need to take in, and I’m waiting for one more dress before I decide what all I need to return to Scott-e-Vest. You’ve been waiting patiently, though, so I wanted to update you on what clothes I’ve found, from where, and how big the pockets are.

Women’s Everyday Go To Pants from

My first purchase was “Women’s Everyday Go To Pants” from Columbia. I ordered two sizes so I could try them on and send one back. The Large looked great on my legs but gave me terrible muffin top. The XL fit my waist and hips perfectly but looked like parachute pants on my legs. But they have nice deep pockets including a zippered one large enough for my phone, so I’m going to keep the XL and take in the legs.

Margeaux Cargeaux Everyday pants from Scott-e-Vest

A friend tipped me off to Scott E Vest. They make clothes with so many pockets you could probably pack for a long weekend in the vests alone. As you browse the items, they tell you how many pockets there are in each design; I think they top out around 47 pockets. Anyhow, I ordered a fleece vest, a pair of nice-looking pants (the “Margaux Cargeaux”), and a shirt. The vest fits well, but I might exchange it for a different colour; the pants have the same problem as the XL Columbia pants—the legs are too wide; the shirt was a nice idea, but it’s white and the fabric is kind of transparent (I’d only wear it over a camisole.) The shirt was final sale, so I’ll have to keep it; the pants are keepers and I’ll just have to take in the legs; and after the dress I ordered from Scott e Vest arrives and I know whether I’m keeping it, I might exchange the black fleece vest for a nice bright red one.

My cousin told me a while ago about the leggings she wears all the time. They have pockets, you see. But they’re only sold on Amazon, and after talking to the owner of a store that has been negatively impacted by what can probably be called Amazon’s predatory practices, I’m even more firmly resolved not to buy from Amazon anymore unless there’s truly no other option. So I went hunting for leggings and stumbled on Encircled and their Dressy Legging. I’m wearing them right now and all I can say is… my leggings have pockets! Pockets that hold my phone! Huzzah! Encircled products are made entirely in Canada: they actually make the knit fabric and then manufacture the clothes in Toronto. As such they’re not cheap, but at least I know that whoever made my leggings was paid a living wage to do it.

So far that’s it for my pocket-hunting shopping spree. You already know about eShakti and the dress I had made to measure. If I had to choose one company to use again it would likely be eShakti, if only for the fact that apparently I’m proportioned oddly for normal pants, so made-to-measure makes the most sense for me.

On another subject, we’re less than two weeks away from Day 365, A.K.A. the anniversary of the day the world turned upside down. I’m wondering whether it’s weird to mark the occasion. If you had to have a “one year of lockdowns” party, what would it involve? Sweatpants and wine? Binge-watching an entire Netflix series? Or maybe just reposting blog posts from Day One to see how far we’ve come?