Camping it up · family fun · Independence · Kids · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 430: Undirected

You know, you can hold your breath and turn blue, or nag them for hours, and my kids still won’t have cleared the table; they’ll just bicker forever about who swept up more Rice Krispies or who unloaded the dishwasher last time and nothing will get done.

So it’s reassuring to know that the kids can formulate a plan, take action, and work together to achieve their goal. I mean, of course they can, because that’s what’s involved in building a couch fort; but somehow I’m always surprised that they can get it together to do anything.

Right now they’re carrying a tent as if it’s a chuppah, each kid holding a tent pole where it attaches to the corner. They have no choice but to work together and listen to instructions, seeing as they have to all move in the same direction or risk damaging the tent.

R and K have been asking us to let them sleep outdoors.

“We’ll sleep on the low wooden deck near the tree swing,” they told me.

“You’ll have to move the big pile of sticks off it and rinse the platform first,” I told them.

They went out and followed my instructions to the letter. Soon they were back saying, “There are bugs out there and we need to put something over us to keep them out. Like a tarp. Or some kind of net.”

“Or maybe a tent?” I asked pointedly. “We do have one.”

While retrieving the tent, K and I noticed the air mattress in its bag. K instantly decided it was also necessary.

I’m very happy that my desk is next to a huge window that overlooks the whole backyard, because this was fun to watch. The kids put up the tent with some basic instruction from Mr. December. Then they inflated the queen-size air mattress. And then they tried to put the mattress inside the tent. Now that’s entertainment.

Image description: After many failed attempts (first three pics) at getting the mattress through the tent door, they carried the tent and mattress back to the house (fourth pic).

I’m too impatient for my own good. After watching them for only a few minutes, I cranked the window open and told them to inflate the mattress when it’s already inside the tent. I should have watched to see how long it would take them to figure it out. I guess it’s not their fault: their dad is an engineer, and their grandfather is an engineer, and I believe it’s an engineering maxim that says, “If brute force isn’t working, you’re not using enough,” so they come by it honestly.

I just love watching kids—especially mine, but others too—play and work without adult direction. It gives me faith that one day they’ll be fully functioning adults.

family fun · whine and cheese · Worldschooling

Day 429: Hopes Dashed

We’re starting to plan for next year, which is kind of a joke during COVID because it’s pretty hard to predict what life is going to be like. I mean, did anybody think we’d still be under stay-at-home orders this summer? But we’re trying to plan anyway, because when you want to travel the world with kids you really have to plan ahead.

Mr. December and I had already chosen a few countries we wanted the kids to see. The next step, which we did today, was to get the kids’ input on things like trip duration, destination, and accommodations. I created a Google Form, each kid submitted their answers, and Mr. December and I tabulated the results. I was getting excited.

Then—for some reason—Mr. December looked up the COVID restrictions in each country… and our hopes were dashed. New Zealand is closed. Israel is open only to tourists who are fully vaccinated, which children can’t be. Thailand too. And on and on, until we stopped googling, sat back in our chairs, and said, “Well, this sucks!”

We googled “where can I travel from Canada right now?” and found this neat interactive map that shows which countries are open, which are closed, and which have some restrictions. The map for travel from Canada looks like this:

Image Description: a map of the world, with most countries coloured red. Parts of Europe, Africa, and North America are yellow. Mexico is green as are a few small countries.

Green means open, yellow means restrictions (which usually involves tourists being fully vaccinated, which makes it impossible with kids,) and red is right out. It’s not looking too good for Canadians right now—and to think, we used to be so beloved abroad that Americans would sew Canadian flags on their backpacks so they’d be better received in every country.

At least Mexico and Costa Rica are fully open. So are the Dominican Republic, North Macedonia, and Albania, but those don’t quite make the cut (although I’m sure they’re very nice.)

I guess now we have to—and I do heartily apologize for using the most overused word of the past four hundred and twenty-nine days—pivot. I’m already starting to shift my expectations from Israel, Thailand, and New Zealand to Costa Rica. Now we have to help the kids shift their expectations, because E has her heart set on Thailand (to see the elephants,) and everyone wanted to see New Zealand. Israel was kind of a given, but the kids know we’ll get there eventually.

So tomorrow I’ll start with a fresh Google Form and solicit the kids’ opinions on some different destinations. Then it’s time for my favourite part of the process: scouring Air BnB for a cool place to stay.

I’ve heard it said that the planning and anticipation is the best part of a trip. If that’s true, I’m super lucky to get a double dose of planning; but if COVID makes me pivot again and plan a third trip, I will be most put out.

education · family fun · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 426: Unexpected Validation

As I opened a container of guacamole tonight for our taco dinner, I noticed what was printed under the container lid: a cute sombrero-wearing avocado, proclaiming “I’m CHUNKY and PROUD OF IT!”

Right on, little avocado man, I thought. Me too.

My guacamole gets me... - Album on Imgur
Image description: a cartoon avocado wearing a sombrero, saying “I’m Chunky and Proud of it!”

Self-image aside, the guacamole and I have another thing in common today: we’re both better if kept refrigerated. It was 29C here today, according to my phone, and we were volunteering in the community orchard. I felt like I was melting; a me-sized refrigerator would have been very welcome.

We (meaning the children and I) have been given our assignment in the orchard this year: we are the IPC team! Insect and Pest Control volunteers are responsible for building insect traps, refreshing them weekly, and checking them to identify the insects that were caught. This is a great opportunity for the kids to learn some entomology. And—let’s face it—it’s a great excuse to get all of us out in the fresh air in the names of education and community service. Talk about win-win.

family fun · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Keepin' it real

Day 422: I’m getting too old for this.

It’s Shavuot, most famously known around here as “the holiday where Eema lets us eat lots of ice cream and cheesecake and we don’t have to go to bed until late.” Officially, of course, it’s the holiday that commemorates our receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, as well as an agricultural holiday related to the first harvest of the season.

There’s a tradition of staying up all night on Shavuot to learn. In my younger days I actually went all night, and it was really fun. Now I’m old, and by 10:30 tonight my energy was flagging—but the kids were still going strong.

We read some folk stories (Isaac Bashevis Singer’s retelling of stories about Chelm are pretty funny.) We ate cheesecake and make-your-own ice cream sundaes. Then we trooped up to the attic and watched an hour or so of The Frisco Kid, which thought was mostly boring. Mr. December and I were enjoying it too much to care if anyone else was.

The kids were determined to stay up, so Mr. December read to them from a history textbook published in 1840’s United States of America. It’s kind of wild that this history book recounts biblical stories as absolute historical fact, a realization that led to my reading the corresponding stories from the Torah and discussing them with the kids.

That took us to midnight, and now it’s 12:26 and I’m exhausted. We’ve given everyone permission to sleep in tomorrow; the only schooling will be Shavuot- or Jewish-studies-related. And now I’ll go to sleep, because I am way too old to stay up all night learning things.

bikes planes and automobiles · education · family fun · Homeschool

Day 419: Classroom of the year

We had the perfect confluence of events today: Mr. December wasn’t teaching today, and the weather was beautiful. I decided we’d spend the entire morning doing our schoolwork at the park.

Our morning was the kind of morning that makes me fall in love with homeschooling all over again. We biked out to the park with all our stuff and chose a picnic table to serve as our classroom. I gave the kids ten minutes to play in the playground and when I called them back, it was to join me on our picnic blanket for music class.

I’ve found a video-based curriculum that teaches theory, sight singing, and ear training. About a minute into the first video, the kids we complaining that the teacher talked too much and that the whole video was stupid. “Can’t you just teach us this stuff without watching the videos?” they pleaded.

So today, on our blanket, we reviewed the solfege hand signs and I taught them about major chords. We sang through a few simple songs with the hand signs. I even had them figure out the names and hand signs for the first bar of “O Canada.” By the end of class, even the most tone-deaf of my kids was singing “Sol, Mi, Doh” in tune.

We took a quick break while I tethered our laptop to my cellphone for the internet access; then I set E up with wireless headphones at a nearby table for her Zoom class. While she was learning about Shavuot in Hebrew, we were learning Latin roots and then previewing and discussing the kids’ literary essays. Next up was our read-aloud of Animal Farm. I hadn’t quite planned it this way, but we finished the book today.

“That was the best book ending ever!” K said, wide-eyed. I happen to agree with her.

Then it was free play for everyone as, one at a time, the kids joined me on the blanket to practice their Hebrew reading. R decided to bike a bit more (easily done, as this park is huge and flat with several little paths) while E tried some challenging new climbers.

Three hours after we started school, we all packed up and biked home. It had been a remarkably easy morning: no arguments, no resistance, and no complaints. Everyone participated. Everyone enjoyed it. We all got some exercise, fresh air, and Vitamin D. I’d be hard pressed to imagine a better school day. Maybe we should do it again tomorrow.

A picnic table in the park. Best classroom we’ve had all year!
bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · Fibro Flares

Day 417: Where has he been all this time?

Mr. December is currently out with all four kids, biking to a bubble tea place to celebrate R’s finishing all the grade five Kumon workbooks. Grade six math, here she comes!

Everyone was running to and fro, looking for socks and masks and helmets, as I stood on the front porch and watched.

“You’re not coming?” Mr. December looked puzzled.

“I’m already feeling pain in my legs,” I said. “If I come with you I might not be functional tomorrow. I’m not sure that’s worth it. Just get me a bubble tea.”

He frowned, “Wow, you really can’t go anywhere! That sucks!” He said it as if this was the first time he’d ever noticed my limitations.

“No kidding,” I deadpanned, channeling my late Buby. I wanted to say something a bit more colourful, but there were children present.


It’s not that I’m in a flare—I’m not—and it’s not like I can’t do anything. After all, we started this morning with a workout that included holding a wall sit for 75 seconds, doing a bunch of squats, a full minute-long plank followed by another thirty seconds, and push-ups. I sweated, I felt the burn, it felt great.

OOH, LOOK! BUNNIES! I’m not kidding! I just looked out my window and noticed two adorable bunnies eating our lawn. I wonder if I can attract more of them—it might save us having to mow the lawn!

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Exercise, feeling the burn, not completely incapacitated. But it’s so hard to know what kind of effect the 4K bike ride will have on my legs if they’re already sore. I figured it’s safer to stay back, if a bit disappointing and a lot less fun. At least K promised to bring me my bubble tea.

bikes planes and automobiles · blogging · family fun · Guest Posts · Kids

Day 416: A Review Of Mother’s Day (Guest Post)

Today R decided to write a guest blog post: a behind-the-scenes look at how my Mother’s Day treat got picked up. I did correct the name of the bakery and I did a bit of capitalization clean-up, but all the words (and most of the punctuation, including the semicolon) are R’s. Enjoy.


Yesterday at 8:25 Abba woke me up saying “Were going to pick up scones for mothers day.” We biked to Baker and Scone and stood in a line for what felt like forever. We were only really standing there for fifteen to twenty minutes before we realized we were in the wrong line; apparently, for pick up, you just walked up to the door and they’ll bring you your order. We were standing in the line to order from the store/restaurant. While a worker went to get our order E decided to get off her bike, and tripped over over what I think was the wooden porch and hit her head right over one of the ears (can’t remember if it was the right side or the left.) Once we got our order and made sure it was secured on Abba’s and K’s bikes we headed off. N and Abba went a bit ahead, so me and K stayed with E to make sure she was okay. When we were only a block away from the store I checked on E to make sure she was okay. E said she had a headache, so once we crossed the street and joined Abba and N on the other side E told Abba about her headache and Abba called Ema to pick E up. Despite there being room for one more bike and a person, Abba made me, K and N bike home. When we got home and washed our hands, I went to swing in the attic, only to be called down five minutes later to eat our scones. We had to do school on Sunday because it worked better with Abba’s schedule. Sunday was an all-math day. And I’m almost done grade five in math! Around three we got out of school and I got online with my friends.


There you have it. They all went out to pick up treats and then I got called to drive over and rescue one of them; so not only did I get scones and jam, I also got the gift of feeling needed. Not to mention, of course, the gift of not having to think of what to blog about for two days in a row. Now, that’s really something.

family fun · Homeschool · Kids · The COVID files

Day 405: I might be too chicken…

I’ve been googling some strange things lately. Like “chicken diapers.” Yup, that’s a thing.

It started with a bit of a “field trip” to play with some baby chickens that had just hatched. Needless to say, the chicks were adorable and the kids were enthralled. I was, too. When the kids asked whether we could hatch some chicks, too, I told them that if they did the research and presented a proposal to us, we’d seriously consider it.

We’ve talked about having backyard chickens before. It’s legal in our part of the city and there are farms that will rent you chickens for the summer and take them back when it gets too cold outside (if you don’t want to have to heat a coop and so on.) And we do like eggs for breakfast. Anyhow, this isn’t a sudden whim—just like with homeschooling, it’s been percolating for quite a few years and could become reality with the help of a small catalyst (like, say, some close encounters with cute chicks.)

My “sister from another mister” (you know who you are) put me in touch with a friend of hers who has backyard chickens and lives near me. She has invited us to come see the chickens and their coop (COVID restrictions permitting, of course.)

So nothing has been decided, but—like with homeschooling—small things are nudging us in the direction of having some feathered pets this summer. Would it be cruel to name them Curry, Schnitzel, and Drumstick?

DIY · family fun · Kids · The COVID files

Day 403: Is it haircut day already?

“Eema, will you cut my hair?” R asked. “I want it shorter.”

So I did what any parent does in these locked-down times: I sent her for my hair-cutting scissors, thinning shears, and a comb.

I chatted as I worked. It sounded a bit like this:

“Okay, you wanted it just past your shoulders? Here. That’s how long it’ll be.”

“Hmmm… I think the left side is shorter than the right. I’d better straighten it out.”

“Um, R? You’d better have a look in the mirror before I keep going.”

I held my breath as she ran inside (we cut hair on the front porch) to check my work. She emerged from the bathroom smiling. “It’s perfect!” she enthused as she posed for the obligatory post-cut pictures.

Then K approached me and said, “Actually, I was wondering if you could just cut the back of mine. It’s too long and it’s annoying me.”

“Just the back?” I confirmed. “Sure. Have a seat.”

I have to say, I’m pleased with the results. I’m also pleased with how we managed to fill an evening without screens.


Speaking of evenings without screens, I’m without my computer for the next day and a half. Mine kept dying on us while warning me that “battery requires service.” So I took it in to the geniuses at Apple. Is it just me, or does calling it the “genius bar” kind of dilute the meaning of “genius”? I’m sure there are bona-fide geniuses working for apple—I know a couple personally—but mostly as programmers rather than storefront employees.

Anyhow, they ran some tests and the only thing wrong with my laptop is the battery. Apparently they consider this a “quality” issue, so they’re replacing it for free… which takes up to 48 hours. Looks like I have some free time in my immediate future.

blogging · family fun · Keepin' it real · whine and cheese

Day 401: Noise Pollution

This is my fourth draft for tonight. I’ve been trying to write a heartfelt post about how glad I am that Friday’s post made so many people feel seen and understood. But Mr. December and the kids are watching some foolishness on our the new TV, and it’s way too loud for me to think.

I was afraid of this. We’ve watched far more TV than we would have if we had to watch upstairs in the attic or on one of the computers. It’s too much. Maybe it’s time for me to hide the remote and push everyone outside—although that also has the potential to fail the way it did today.

It’s springtime, which I know not because of the calendar or the weather, but because my neighbour’s lawn care guy is back at it, spending thirty minutes using a leaf blower to make sure there are no grass clippings anywhere on the lawn. It’s the same leaf blower as in years past: gas-powered, smelly, and obnoxiously loud. And it’s the same time slot as last year, too: between 4:30 and 5:30 on Sunday afternoon, A.K.A. right when you want to be outside with your family.

So of course today when I declared that there would be no more screen time until everyone had spent at least an hour outside, we opened the back door to the sound (and smell) of the leaf blower. Grrr.

Short of petitioning City Hall to ban leaf blowers (or at least the gas-powered kind) there’s not much I can do about that; but the TV noise is a problem of my own making. Can anyone remind me why we bought the TV? I can’t remember anymore. Or maybe I just can’t think of it over the sound of YouTube on the big screen.