community · crafty · Darn Tootin' · Fibro Flares · gardening · Homeschool

Day 396: Worth it.

Today was one of those full days that ends with a feeling of great satisfaction. Unfortunately, the fullness of the day has also left me with a feeling of significant pain; still, I feel like I made the right choices.

I can barely believe how much E has been practicing her flute. Anytime nobody else is in the library (which is also our music room,) she’s in there with her music on the stand and her flute at her lips. Her work really shows: she’s sounding better and better every day. Now I just have to teach her about eighth notes.

When I finally got my hands on the three older kids—which is getting to be later and later each day as Mr. December gets carried away with whatever he’s teaching them—I sat them down and assigned them some substantial writing, which they immediately started brainstorming for. Later we had art class, where we once again tried to make pottery in the style of Ancient Greece.

Last week I taught the kids the coil method for making a pot. This week I took a slab-building approach, using balloons as our moulds. It wasn’t particularly successful, and only N’s pot was still standing by the end of the hour. Mine looked beautiful, but I tried to smooth “just one more lump” and… POP. With the balloon gone, my whole pot collapsed in on itself.

Around 5:00 we all went to the park. I was there on a mission: the apricot trees in the community orchard are already in bloom, but tonight’s snow and freezing temperatures threatened to kill all the blossoms and any fruit they might bear this summer. An email went out this morning asking for volunteers to bring tarps, plastic bags, and tie-downs and help cover the trees. That’s why we found ourselves in the park, tying multiple tarps together and then raising them over the trees—like a giant chuppah—before tying them down. The best part was that, once again, my kids were doing useful work to benefit the community they live in. There’s no substitute for that experience.

After dinner we started watching Animal Farm (the 1954 animated film, not the 1999 live-action one.) The kids were riveted. Our next step will be a read-aloud of the book, as part of our literature studies.

And then it was bedtime. I could hardly believe that it was 8:30 already. Where did the day go? Oh, yeah… we did stuff today. Lots and lots of stuff.

I definitely overdid it today. And yet I did it knowingly; sometimes I need to feel normal and functional (especially if I’m not) more than I need to be pain-free. Besides, these past six (or seven?) weeks have taught me that resting won’t guarantee me a pain-free day anyhow, so I might as well do at least some of the things I enjoy.

Now… if anyone needs me, I’ll be in my bed with a heating pad and my banana popsicles for the next day or two.

Image description: three tarps are spread out on the ground, tied together with twist ties and zip ties. A child is squatting near the far corner of the tarp, tying it to a pole. Grass in background.
family fun · Fibro Flares · Jewy goodness · what's cookin'

Day 391: I’ll pay for this tomorrow…

Today was Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. We celebrated in a low-key kind of way. Instead of our usual workout, I taught everyone some Israeli folk dances; we made fresh pita, Israeli salad, and schnitzel with chips for dinner; and we ended the day with more dancing followed by blue-and-white-iced cupcakes.

All of which means that I was on my feet more than usual, what with double dancing sessions and baking pita and cupcakes. Sadly, I suspect that I’ll be paying for it tomorrow. I feel like this flare is better than it was last week, but maybe I’m just getting inured to the constant ache. Anyhow, I think I’d better lay low tomorrow and over the weekend.

Just for the record, though, it was worth it to see Mr. December dancing.

family fun · Fibro Flares · Homeschool · The COVID files

Day 390: The End of an Era

We bought a TV this week—the very first one we’ve bought in almost 17 years of marriage.

Mr. December and I assembled the wall mount and set up the TV, then sat back to “test-watch” a few videos.

I felt vaguely dirty. After all, for a long, long time I’ve prided myself on the fact that we didn’t have a TV. And I still long for the days before we even had a family computer, when the kids played together for hours with things like legos and train sets. I long for the days before “Can I go on a screen?” became the most-asked question in my home.

If COVID hadn’t happened, maybe we wouldn’t have bothered with a TV. But there’s nowhere to go, and not much to do, and crowding around a 23″ computer monitor to watch videos was getting old. We also use screens a lot more often than we used to: Mr. December is using a biochemistry course that relies on lesson videos and I often use short videos that relate to what the kids are learning with me. It just didn’t make sense not to have a TV anymore.

I’m warming up to some of the possibilities that come with this TV, though. Things like being able to lie on the comfy couch and binge-watch Netflix during a fibro flare instead of turning two slipper chairs into a makeshift bed in front of my computer. The TV is also two floors below the bedrooms, so it’s possible that Mr. December and I could even have a date night down there after the kids’ bedtime. When I consider how much money we used to spend each time we went out to a movie together, well, it appears that the TV may have been a good investment, however little I wanted it.

family fun · Fibro Flares · Independence · Kids

Day 389: Nothing humble about this brag.

Today the kids made 130 sandwiches for Ve’ahavta to distribute from their street outreach van. I tried to step back and let them take the lead, ostensibly because I want them to learn how to organize this kind of endeavour, but mostly because I’m still trying not to overdo things.

I was especially proud of R, who ran the multi-step vegetarian-taco-wrap assembly line. She was pitching in wherever it was needed, moving things along, and telling the others when they should take a five-minute break to give everyone else time to clear the backlogs.

On the way to drop off the sandwiches I told the kids that I’m proud of them for doing the sandwiches. They rejected my praise, pointing out, “Eema, you made us do it. You signed us up and told us we had to.”

“Well, yes,” I said, “That’s true. But Judaism is about action, not faith. Our sages said it was better to do the right thing for the wrong reasons than the wrong thing for the right reasons. It’s results and outcomes that matter most, and you guys absolutely produced results. So I’m proud, and you should be too.”

Back at home, the kids continued to be useful (at our insistence, of course. This isn’t some parenting utopia.) Mr. December taught K how to use the reciprocating saw to cut up the branches that we pruned off the plum tree last weekend. She got a real kick out of it and made a decent-sized dent in the pile of branches.

I roped N into sanding our patio table, which is in desperate need of restaining. Armed with anti-vibration gloves, the Mouse sander, and an extension cord, he went to work at it. Five minutes later he was back inside. “I’m done,” he said.

“No you’re not,” I said, “You didn’t even sand half the table. And you’ve only worked for five minutes! That’s not what we call work! Get back out there. I’ll come out and keep you company.” He reluctantly returned to his job.

Three or four times he declared his intention to be done for the day; three or four times I pointed out that he was fully capable of finishing the job tonight. It ended up taking him maybe half an hour, tops.

In the meantime I assigned E the job of picking up garbage with one of those garbage grabbers. She found all sorts of lovely bits and pieces that must have blown into the backyard from our garbage cans on a windy night. Anyhow, she proudly presented me with a bag of trash when she was done.

Whatever concerns I may have about my kids, at least I can take pride in the fact that they’re capable of contributing real work to better our home and community. Now I just need them to heed me when I say it’s bedtime.

Fibro Flares · Independence · Keepin' it real · Kids

Day 387: Unneeded

I folded laundry this morning. It only came out of the dryer six days ago; I’m pretty proud that I did it in under a week.

Then I took a nap.

It’s the small victories, right?

I also managed to put in an online grocery order. Unfortunately my brain is still pretty foggy, so we might end up with a completely random assortment of foods that don’t combine into anything this family eats. Oh, the excitement! The anticipation! It’s like opening the front door in the middle of the day to find a box there: I’m ordering so many things constantly that I never know what I’m going to get when I open a package.

I've ordered so much stuff online during quarantine, don't even know what's  coming anymore. If UPS shows up with a llama tomorrow, it is what it is. -  America's best pics and
Image description: Yellow background with red text that reads “I’ve ordered so much stuff online during quarantine, I don’t even know what’s coming anymore. If UPS shows up with a llama tomorrow, it is what it is.”

Finishing the grocery order just about did me in, cognitively speaking, and an online choir rehearsal took me the rest of the way to “time to lie down now.”

Good think I’ve raised the kids to be fairly independent: they came to me this afternoon and said, “We’re going to the park. ‘Bye!” And off they went, all four of them. They stayed out for a couple of hours, and I rested.

There’s a common sentiment that it feels good to be needed. That’s generally true. But after thirteen years and three months of being needed almost non-stop (there was that one cruise Mr. December and I took) it’s a bit of a relief when they don’t need me for a change. Especially during a flare.

Fibro Flares

Day 386: At Loose Ends

Normally a fibro flare doesn’t last long for me. A day or two, maybe three, and then I’m back to normal. It’s just a few days; I can take those days to rest and do absolutely nothing strenuous. This current flare is now finishing day four; judging from how I felt going up the stairs just now, day five won’t be a picnic either. If we head into another whole week of flare (I hope not, but if,) what’s my plan? Am I going to do some light exercise each morning and then spend the rest of the day lying around?

The truth is, I have no idea. I don’t generally think of myself as someone who’s ill, although I acknowledge and make concessions for my variable stamina. I just don’t understand what I’m supposed to do with myself when I feel like this for a week or more.

It feels weird to lie around while Mr. December and the kids clear the table and load the dishwasher. I can’t help feeling a bit lazy, so I get up and do things, which leads to worse symptoms, at which point I remember why I wasn’t getting up and doing things… until the next time I forget and feel like I’m just being lazy. It’s a vicious cycle.

(Not a viscous cycle, not that I’m sure what that would even look like; It’s just that I keep seeing that particular misspelling of “vicious” and wonder what viscous substance we’re talking about. Honey? Tar? Hair gel? And how does that relate to a cycle?)

Just to be clear: I’m not unhappy, I’m just in pain. There’s a difference. There are just so many things I want to be doing—building, sewing, biking, playing—that a long period of idleness is almost intolerable. Reading is doable, at least until my arms get tired from holding the book, and the kids are always good for an hour or two of snuggling, but what else is a supposed-to-be-resting mom supposed to do?

bikes planes and automobiles · blogging · Fibro Flares · Kids

Day 385: Failure to Pace

Here we are again. Yesterday was such a beautiful day, and E was especially eager for a family bike ride, and I agreed to a shorter ride than we ended up doing. I overdid it yesterday, even though I biked very slowly on an easy gear and took lots of breaks. As you might guess, today was not a good day, fibro-wise.

Every day has its good parts, though, and yesterday I was tremendously proud of E. She biked six kilometres—three out and three back—on her own bike, entirely unassisted. She’s still too wobbly to do much riding on city sidewalks, but on the trails she’s doing fine. Better yet, she loves biking as much as I do.

It’s very hard to resist such an earnest entreaty from E: “Please, Eema! You said we’d take a bike ride together! We can go slow! I’ll wait for you! Please!” I had said no to her on Wednesday; I didn’t want to say no again.

So right now my legs feel like they’re made of lead (or maybe even Tungsten) and my brain feels slow and foggy. My arms are absurdly tired, too. I did very little teaching today and abandoned any pretense of schooling the kids after lunch. They busied themselves building another epic living-room fort while I zoned out in the back-porch hammock with my fuzzy blanket.

(On a side note, I went outside for some peace and quiet, which is pretty bizarre seeing as I live half a block away from a massive (and noisy) construction site. Still, outside was more peaceful than inside by far.)

I lay down for a while this evening and binge-watched some of Shtisel (season 3), which is just drama upon drama, but which I love because I can understand it without subtitles, even though they switch between Hebrew and Yiddish.

I think this post was supposed to be about how hard it can be to pace myself, but I’m seven (short) paragraphs in and haven’t really gone there yet. My brain feels like it’s been switched off. The kids are talking to me and I might as well be underwater for how much I’m hearing and understanding. Bed now. More blog later.

Early morning musings · Fibro Flares · Kids · love and marriage · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 384: Is *that* why I’m so happy?

Yesterday when I hauled my achy body downstairs in the morning, a full, fresh pot of hazelnut coffee was a very welcome sight. Mr. December had gotten downstairs before me.

“Kids,” I said after I’d had my first sip, “Your father is a prince among men.”

“Why?” They asked.

“Because he makes me coffee in the mornings; When I come downstairs I can have a nice warm drink right away.” I said.

“And that makes him a prince?” K inquired.

I nodded.

“Because he made you coffee, which he was making for himself anyway?” She prodded further.

“Because he makes enough coffee for us both to have refills. And he does it every time without my having to even ask. Besides, it’s not the grand romantic gestures that make love last. It’s all the little things you do to make each other’s day even just a bit better.” I’ll admit I was pretty proud of squeezing in an important life lesson before we’d even had breakfast. I looked over the rim of my coffee cup at the kids, watching to see how they digested what I’d said. K spoke up first.

“Eema…” she paused as if looking for the right words, “I think maybe your standards are too low.”

Darn Tootin' · family fun · Fibro Flares · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · Resorting to Violins · whine and cheese

Day 383: Doin’ it with flare

How does one homeschool their kids in the middle of a fibromyalgia flare-up? It turns out that the answer is: as little as possible, as honestly as possible, in as much comfort as possible.

It was a gorgeous day today, so I pushed all of us out the door and to the nearest park. We did our workout on the playground equipment. At one point N got lazy and started lolling around on the climber instead of doing the exercise. I set him straight: “Listen, mister. If I can do it today, then you sure as heck can do it too. Get moving.”

I find one of the most difficult things about fibromyalgia is gauging how hard I can push myself. Exercising during a flare-up doesn’t do any damage to my body; it just hurts. So I guess the question is how much pain I feel like tolerating, given the expected payoff. Going to the park with the family improved my mood substantially, but it didn’t help my pain level at all.

Mr. December worked on chemistry and math with the older kids while I helped E with her writing, reading, and flute (which is going really well, by the way.) The rest of my morning was spent ordering groceries on Instacart and sitting in a hammock alternately reading and spacing out.

The kids joined me in the living room to discuss their next writing assignment. I stayed cocooned in my hammock with my furry blue blanket and patiently answered all their questions. Then I went upstairs to lie down for an hour. I have no idea what the kids ate for lunch, but I think it’s safe to assume that if they were hungry they would have eaten something.

We reconvened in the living room after my nap and I read aloud about Ancient Greek democracy. Then, for art, I asked them to bring over all the sketchbooks and markers and introduced them to meandros, those Greek key designs that you can draw without lifting your pen (did you know the word meander comes from the name of a river in Asia Minor? I was today years old when I learned that.)

By 2:30 I was done. I went to the back porch and cocooned myself in the outdoor hammock for a bit of a change. Groceries arrived around 4:00 and I dispatched my child labour force to bring everything in and put the perishables away. Dinner—rotisserie chicken and potato wedges from the supermarket—was at 5:00 and by 5:30 the kids were clamoring for more screen time.

“Not until you’ve practiced your instruments,” I stared levelly at R and K, “You haven’t done that for a week or so.”

I’m proud (and a bit surprised) to say that both R and K went off and practiced on their own. After a while K invited me to join her on the back porch for her practice; shockingly, she was very receptive to my suggestions and did some really good work.

And now here we are, after an hour of British reality TV about kids of varying backgrounds having playdates at each other’s homes (E loves this show,) and I’m about to tuck in three of the four kids.

Everything still hurts, possibly more than this morning. But I did it—I managed to preside over some learning, music practice, and dinner, which feels like a massive accomplishment right now. I think a warm bath and a cup of tea is what’s needed now, and then maybe if I get lucky somebody will tuck me in.

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.