diet recovery · DIY · family fun · Kids

Day 496: How she sees me.

E and I stopped by my parents’ place to take care of the pool in their absence. By “take care of the pool” I mean “dip the test strip, look at the reference chart, try to figure out which bottle of stuff I should be using to fix whatever’s wrong, and then dump in a few kilograms of whatever it is I think the pool needs.” It feels like I should be a bit more scientific about it, but my way is working so far.

(Although yesterday and three days ago I dumped in, like, twelve kilos of salt and today when we swam I was floating more easily than usual and a scrape on my arm was burning, so that might have been a bit much. Oops. It’s still not as salty as the ocean.)

We decided that before adding the Alkalinity Increaser that the pool apparently needed, we’d take a short swim. At first I figured only E would swim while I watched her, so I said, “Oh, don’t bother with your bathing suit. Just jump in naked. It’s only the two of us here.”

(Don’t worry, the pool is not in any way exposed such that anybody can see us.)

A few minutes later, though, I decided to dip my toes. The water was deliciously cool; I decided to join E for a while.

“You can skinny-dip too, you know,” E said.

“If someone’s kind of chunky, can they call it chunky dunking instead?” I mused aloud.

E huffed, “No, it’s still skinny dipping.”

“But I wanna go chunky dunking!” I protested.

“Eema,” she said with all the patience usually reserved for reasoning with a two-year-old, “You’re not that fat… for a grown-up.”

“Fine, call it whatever you want,” I said with my dress halfway over my head, “I’m coming in!”

It was fabulous.

I will pause here and say that yes, the fact that “you’re not that fat” made me feel good is problematic in itself. Fat is an adjective, like tall or short. That it affects my self-worth is unfortunate. I’m working on it. And for those of you reading this, don’t say “you’re not fat” to someone, unless you’re trying to reinforce the fact that fat is a terrible thing to be.

Anyhow, it was what I needed to hear after last night’s musings. If only I could always see myself the way my kids see me.


Before I go, I’ll leave you with this picture of me, a wrecking bar, and a pair of wire cutters. Anybody want to guess what I was doing today?

Image description: Me (woman with a ponytail and glasses) facing away from the camera, holding a pair of wire cutters in one hand and a wrecking bar that is wedged in between two pieces of trim in the other.
diet recovery · family fun · Good Grief · waxing philosophical · weight loss · whine and cheese

Day 494: It Was “Only for Now”

I cried when I got this text message:

“Good news/bad news. It looks like I have a neighbor who can host our trampoline! She’s just measuring and checking on moving cost before she commits. Could you remind me of your address?”

Maybe it was PMS, or maybe I was bound to cry because I had a coaching session earlier during which I was holding back tears. But cry I did, over a trampoline.

“When the kids come home,” I blubbered into Mr. December’s shirt, “the trampoline just won’t be there. It’ll be, like, a giant gaping hole in our backyard.”

“It was never ours to begin with,” he reminded me, rubbing my back.

He’s right, of course. We’ve always said that we were “fostering” this trampoline until its family had space for it again. We were incredibly lucky to get it in the first place: it essentially fell into our laps at the beginning of the COVID lockdowns, when it was impossible to buy one because they were all backordered. I’m trying to remind myself to be grateful for the time we had with it, and not bemoan the loss. But it’s hard.

And re-reading the last paragraph, I’m feeling like there’s a bigger life lesson here. Is anything ever really ours for ever and ever? Or is it all, as Avenue Q said, “Only for now”?

Remember that coaching session I mentioned? “Only for now” would be an apt summary of what we talked about. I’m working on what some people call “diet recovery”—essentially I’ve been on so many different weight-loss programs, all of which worked temporarily, and binged so much in between, that I don’t even know what and how to eat anymore. Hunger cues? What are those? After overriding my body’s instincts for so long, I’m not sure what’s left. What I do know is that I could try to lose weight again, but in two years I’d likely be right back where I am now. Yo-yo dieting is very bad for your health, as it turns out; I have no desire to wreck my body any more than I already have.

Anyhow, my coach and I talked about “grieving the thin ideal”: accepting that my body doesn’t want to stay thin and won’t unless I punish it. I need to make peace with that. Being slim was definitely better than being fat, whether because of our society’s fatphobia or because of actual physical limitations, but it’s not really something I can maintain in the long run. I need to say goodbye to that dream of one day finding the perfect “lifestyle change” (because “diet” is a dirty word, you see) and getting and remaining slim forever more.

“Listen,” my coach pointed out, “our bodies are only for now. We age, we gain or lose weight, we slow down. We have to get comfortable with constant changes, because otherwise we’ll just be miserable. And we have to accept what our bodies are right now, instead of always dreaming of what they could be, if only there was a magic wand to wave.”

She’s right. It’s just really damn hard. And losing our trampoline on the same day didn’t help matters. But as the song goes, everything in life is only for now.

family fun · Keepin' it real · Kids · waxing philosophical

Day 491: It started out so well.

This morning I discovered a new beach online and decided to try it with E, who is turning out to be an excellent partner in beachy crime. I made the required reservations (because COVID) and even rented a tandem kayak for an extremely reasonable fee ($10 including tax for 30 minutes.) We drove out to Professor’s Lake, singing along with the Hamilton soundtrack the entire way.

It was unlike any of the beaches I’ve been to before: we entered through a building that housed bathrooms, a snack bar, and a boat rental desk, and came out to a tiny beach with three lifeguard stands and a roped-off swim area. It’s not a big lake (although probably similar in size to Kelso,) which meant calm, warmer-than-your-average-lake waters. The bottom was sandy all the way out and the water was chest-deep at the far limit of the “shallow end.”

E and I frolicked in the water for a while until it was time for our kayak rental; then I paddled us around the lake, sticking close to shore so I could see the backyards of the houses that back onto it. I had no idea that Brampton had subdivision houses with a lake in their backyards; most of them had some kind of watercraft and some even had small docks at the water’s edge.

(Note to self: I want a lake at the bottom of my backyard.)

On our way back to the boathouse we saw the lifeguards’ pontoon boat speeding towards us.

“I need you guys to go back to the boathouse right away, because it’s going to rain soon and also something else.” The lifeguard shouted to us.

Also something else? I thought as I paddled hard back to shore. This can’t be good.

It wasn’t until we got close to the dock that I heard the sirens and saw the flashing lights of an ambulance. We were directed to exit to the parking lot, unless we had things on the beach—which we did—in which case we were to pack up and then leave.

You might not know this about me, but I have strong feelings about what people should and shouldn’t be doing when there’s an emergency situation. As we were packing up and leaving I was telling E that when there are first responders coming towards you, you hop aside as quickly as possible because an extra couple of seconds might save a life; that you should follow their instructions first and ask questions much later, if at all; that we’re so lucky to live in a place where we have police and medics and firefighters who come to help as soon as they’re called.

In the parking lot I saw two women walking away from their car.

“Do you know,” I asked, “if they’re letting cars out of the parking lot? Or are we blocked?”

“They have to let us through,” one woman said in an exasperated tone. “They can’t keep us here.”

“Actually,” I whispered to Ellie as we walked away, “I’m pretty sure they can. And I’m certainly not going to interrupt them in the middle of a rescue so I can get out of the parking lot a few minutes sooner. We’ll just take our snacks and sit on that bench.”

Honestly, what are people thinking when they get upset about this kind of thing? They were planning to be at the beach longer anyhow, so they don’t have any other pressing engagements. What could possibly be more important than saving a life?

Which reminded me: I shared this thought with E and taught her the Hebrew term Pikuach Nefesh, which is the Jewish principle that you can (or must) transgress any law in the Torah if it is a matter of saving a life. She repeated the words Pikuach Nefesh a few more times, rolling it around her mouth.

After twenty minutes of sitting on the bench (I couldn’t stand how people were gawking through the fence at the scene unfolding on the beach) we took a walk down the path that circles the lake. E squealed in delight as we found a playground, and she started climbing while I added this park to the Playground Buddy app.

Our car was no longer blocked in when we finally returned to the parking lot; the firetrucks had all left and the ambulances were packing up their stuff and leaving. Only a dozen police cars remained, the officers all gathered in a tight circle on the beach—to debrief, I assumed.

Later I read that a man had drowned in the lake. In the face of that, more mundane issues seem so unimportant, don’t they? And yet life goes on at breakneck speed, I reflected upon seeing that my beach access fee had already been credited back to my VISA card.

On any given day there are tragedies great and small, personal triumphs, births, and mundane everyday transactions, all happening at the exact same time. I’ve tried to wrap my mind around that before; I’m still trying to.

Tonight I’m thinking of the lifeguards who handled today’s emergency with such professionalism, the first responders who were unable to save that life, and the family of the man who drowned.

Folks, please… learn to swim. Teach your children to swim.

And for heaven’s sake, do not complain about minor inconveniences when there’s a life on the line.

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?


ADHD · crafty · family fun · Kids · Resorting to Violins

Day 485: Hyperfocus Hurts

Yesterday I had a block of time all to myself, all alone in the house. I took advantage of it to work on a personal music project of mine. ADHD hyperfocus kicked in and before I had realized it, I’d been playing and singing for over three hours.

I learned a few important things. First, the new laptop we got for the kids has an excellent built-in microphone, so I can just do all my recordings on that computer—no need to buy a mic. Second, I learned that a music degree isn’t a “get out of practicing free” card for the rest of your life. Five minutes at the piano made it very clear to me that I can’t just improvise a piano part and then record it in the same afternoon. And third, I learned that playing for three hours straight is not a great idea for my body, although it is for my soul.

Now, I’m not new at this; I know that playing the same instrument for three hours will cause soreness. That’s why I switched instruments a bunch of times. Different instruments, different muscles—right?

Apparently not. I mean, I guess three hours of playing the same instrument might cause more pain than I’m feeling right now, but switching instruments doesn’t seem to have eliminated the problem.

In a perfect world—okay, maybe just a non-hurting body—I’d channel my hyperfocus into my music for several days straight. In this imperfect world I have to give it a rest for a few days before I get back to it. It’s a good think I’m a dabbler with lots of different interests; I’ll just rotate through them while I wait for my hands to calm down.

Speaking of other interests, I’ve been thinking about quilting again—it’s been years since I made a quilt, probably since my niece was born almost six years ago. But each of my kids was promised a quilt when they moved into big-kid beds. I’m obviously several years behind on this commitment.

In the past I’ve gone so far as to have N pick his favourite fabrics and approve a design. I don’t remember which design it was, but thanks to my avoidance of putting things away properly I know exactly which pile of fabrics is his “yes” pile.

I want to start his quilt, but I can’t. I’m trying to impose some self-discipline here: I have a long list of things to do while the kids are at camp, and making N a quilt is definitely not on that list. It will have to wait.

So what am I planning to do this week? Well, I promised E a fun outing tomorrow afternoon. In the morning I have to return all those fabric samples (I’m really no further ahead and I’m heading over to a different store to find some more options,) buy some more gray spray paint (ran out mid-spray today,) and pick up a prepaid parcel box from Canada Post (R has run out of Rainbow Loom, hardly surprising since she’s probably supplying her entire cabin with it.) After that, fun! At least, I hope it is. One way or another, you’ll hear all about it tomorrow night.

DIY · education · family fun · Homeschool · Jewy goodness · The COVID files · Worldschooling

Day 484: Curriculum Decision

After lots of research into ready-made curricula, I’ve made my decision:

I’m going to create a curriculum myself.

It’s not that there aren’t lots of fabulous-looking curricula out there; there are, in as many different flavours as there are approaches to education. More, even.

But Mr. December and I have been working on our travel plans (for when we can realistically travel again,) and it looks like our most likely option would be Central and South America, since Costa Rica is open with no restrictions and Ecuador has no restrictions for those who are fully vaccinated (children too young to be vaccinated take on the status of their parents, so we’re good to go.) And as long as we’re there, might as well check out the Galapagos. You know, before climate change and tourism muck the whole thing up and there’s nothing to see.

With that decided, all of the homeschooling pieces have fallen into place. Of course we should learn about the geography and history of the places we’ll be travelling. Olmecs, Aztecs, Mayans, Incas. And then when we get to the Conquistadors and start talking about the monarchy that financed them, we’ll naturally be talking about the Spanish Inquisition (nobody expects it, but there it is) and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. From there, we can talk about the Sephardi Jews: customs, music, food, and language (let’s learn some Ladino!)

I’ve gotten really into the planning; I have the mind map to prove it. I divided it into curriculum areas—Language, Food, Geography, History, Music, Art, Math and Science—and jotted down everything I could think of to learn about them. There’s even a separate section for the Galapagos, highlighted in blue.

I’ve compiled a long playlist of Crash Course History videos and the like to introduce various topics. Our public library gives us free access to Mango Languages, which we’ll use for learning Spanish and maybe Ladino (if they have it.)

So that’s it: I’m dumping the premade curricula and going with Mesoamerican and South American studies. This is going to be so much fun!

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.

family fun · Keepin' it real · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day 482: I don’t trust them.

I’ve been avidly watching the weather forecast, looking for a clear day to take E kayaking at the beach or maybe even to a waterpark. And for the last week and a half, my phone has showed me the same sort of thing:

Image description: screenshot from the Weather app on an iPhone. The forecast shows rain or thunderstorms almost every day next week.

This screenshot is from tonight, but it’s pretty representative of the forecast I saw last week at this time, too. Rain. Rain, rain, storms, no sun, rain.

(And yes, it’s a mirror image of how you probably see your phone, because Hebrew is read from right to left. I set Hebrew as the main language on my phone so that I could keep up my reading skills and expand my vocabulary. In a happy coincidence, it also makes it hard for the kids to use my phone. But if they really, really want to use it, they can learn some more Hebrew.)

My problem isn’t the rain. I mean, sure, it’s not what I would have wanted, but it’s not The Weather Network’s fault that it’s rainy. What I am mad at them for is that their forecast is just plain wrong, or at least misleading.

Every day this week was supposed to be rainy—no sun in the forecast. What actually happened was that we had a few very nice, warm, moderately sunny days; several of those days had about an hour of rain, but that was it. I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I think when I look at a forecast like the one in the above picture.

Because of the forecast, I didn’t plan any outings. Worse yet, I decided to go get my second COVID shot this week because I figured we’d be stuck in the house anyway, and I could cuddle up to E and watch Spongebob just as easily when I’m feeling ill as when I’m well. No sense wasting a beautiful summer day letting my immune system do its thing when I could do it on a rainy one instead, right?

As it happened, the weather was reasonably nice the day after I got my shot. E asked me to go for a bike ride that I was pretty sure I couldn’t manage; that’s when I called my parents and asked them to rescue E from boredom and me from having to parent. Thank God for my parents (although they’re setting the bar pretty high for me to meet when I’m a grandparent one day!)

So now I’m looking at next week’s forecast—cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms—and wondering whether I can trust it. Should I just go ahead and plan the outings anyway? Do everything last-minute? I don’t know what I should do. What I do know is that I just can’t trust The Weather Network any more.

family fun · water you paddling?

Day 477: I need a better kayak.

I’ve said it before, haven’t I? But this time I mean it.

I spent an hour or so out on the lake this morning with E. From the start of our paddle, no amount of shifting or moving or repositioning could correct the off-balance feeling I had in my kayak. It just felt like it was listing to one side the whole time.

Back on land, when I looked at the kayak head-on, I could see that the two different layers (it’s an inflatable kayak) were not perfectly stacked one on top of the other. That’s why it felt like the boat was leaning: it was.

My back is sore now; I was sitting funny the entire time I was paddling in order to make the boat feel less tilted. I absolutely adore kayaking. Back pain, not so much. I’m going to need a better boat.

Mr. December is on board with this, provided that I really think this through: if I get a “real” (non-inflatable) kayak, I have to figure out how I’ll transport and store it. No matter what kayak I get, I really should try before I buy to make sure that it actually is more comfortable than my current one. All of which means that, given my extensive to-do list, I’m probably not going to make much progress on the kayak front this summer.

In the meantime, I might try to rig up something to ameliorate my current kayak situation, because I love being out on the water too much to just sit out the summer. And from what I saw this morning, E does too.

Image description: A child paddling an inflatable kayak, with a beach and lifeguard house in the background.

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten all the other projects I have on the go. How could I? I promise that when I’ve chosen the fabric for my window seat and the curriculum for next year’s homeschooling, I’ll tell you all about it. In the meantime, assume that no news is no news.

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.