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Day 1084:

Today we took a bicycle tour of the Tra Que vegetable village. As you can see from the photos, it was very hands-on.

After all the manual labour and plant identification, we left the farm and biked over to the home of a family that makes traditional rice paper. We got to try our hand at making it and then we ate the final result with some soy sauce for dipping. Crunchy and delicious.

After that we biked into town for lunch at the “Banh My Queen”—apparently the very best Banh My in Hoi An. We chatted with our guide, Emma, who grew up in Hoi An and whose English is excellent. At the end of lunch we biked back to our villa and practically threw ourselves in the pool (it was pretty hot out today.)

Tonight I went back to Chabad with N and R. We had a lovely dinner there (chicken kebabs, veggies, spring rolls, and challah) and then spent some more time chatting with Israelis. Now we’re home and I’m totally wiped out—so if you’ll excuse the brevity of this post (and even if you won’t,) I’m off to bed.

family fun · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Travelogue · Vietnam

Day 1083: HAPPY PURIM!!!!

For a few minutes today, I was worried that Purim would be a letdown. We had no costumes, no way to bake hamentaschen, and nobody to exchange mishloach manot with. Sure, R had put some time and effort into making sure we had bags of candy for her and her siblings, but that was it. Well, that and whatever Chabad was doing.

So we went to Chabad for their Purim celebration tonight (there’s another one tomorrow afternoon.) It was the fastest megillah reading I’ve ever heard, made faster by the rabbi’s brother who said, “Listen, if we make noise every time he says ‘Haman’ we’ll be here all night. Just wait for the signal. We’ll tell you when.” I’ve never heard of doing that before—isn’t the whole point to blot out Haman’s name entirely? (and here I am saying it—not once, but twice—in my blog post.) In the end it was a good thing: R is sensitive to loud noises, so reducing the number of times the room erupts into auditory chaos could only help.

There was a long table set up with carrot soup, fruit platters, hamentaschen, and brownies. The rabbi announced that there were crafts for the children upstairs; R and E dragged me up there immediately. They decorated masks and solved a maze (the maze was for a special prize: kosher candy from the U.S.) while I chatted with another mom about traveling with kids. On our way out the door we each got a little mishloach manot package with a can of pop, a hamentasch, and a fruit roll-up.

When we got home R went running for the mishloach manot she had packaged for her siblings. “Hey guys, R has a surprise for you!” I told them. “It’s not a surprise, Eema. We all read your blog. We already knew.”

They all read my blog? I’m honoured. HI KIDS!!! *waving madly*

In the end, the kids had a great time and received way more sweets than anybody needs in a week. So far Purim has been a success… and it’s not over yet. N has already declared his intention of going back to Chabad tomorrow. He may be in it for the candy, but I’ll take it.

Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Travelogue · Worldschooling

Day 1012: Eighth night (a little too easy?)

Things that are ready to be put into a suitcase:

  • First aid supplies (except for the antibiotic eye drops)
  • My toiletries, plus bug spray and sunscreen for the family (but we’re missing conditioner bars)
  • My clothes, with the exception of anything that’s dirty or anything that’s been ordered online but isn’t here yet
  • Shabbat kit (2 battery-operated tealight candles, extra batteries, kippot)
  • Travel towels for me and Mr. December.
  • Paper copies of all of our reservations and confirmations, vaccination status, and photocopies of our passports. Also, our passports.

I just went and checked the shopping list to see what else I need to pack. Not a whole lot, it seems, except for things that can’t be packed until the last minute—laptops and chargers, CPAP machines, that sort of thing. I’ve done what I can for now.

It feels a bit like the eye of a hurricane: It was hectic last week and it’ll be hectic again, but right now there’s an odd lack of things to do. Or maybe I’m just forgetting something huge that Mr. December will remind me of as soon as he reads this post.

A dove-shaped hannukah menorah with all eight candles lit.
I love this chanukiah—it was a bat mitzvah gift from my Auntie Clara, who died recently. It’s so special to have a built-in annual reminder of her.
ADHD · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Travelogue · Worldschooling

Day 1011: Seventh Night (but who’s counting?)

We are counting days over here, but not the days of Chanukah. One week from tonight we’ll be on a plane to New Zealand. I’ve started packing my clothes for the trip (a few items need to be washed) and tomorrow I’ll work on the first aid kit and communal gear. I’m feeling the time pressure.

I forgot to take my ADHD meds today and spent much of the day playing computer games and watching YouTube videos. “Just one more” turned into dozens more, and by the time my brain un-fogged it was 4:00 p.m.

(Note to self: Take your meds. Every. Day.)

I need to really make an effort to go to bed on time every night this week. Starting the trip fatigued is a surefire recipe for a flare.

Happy Chanukah! Chag Sameach!

Chanuka menorah with seven candles (plus shamash.)
family fun · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Homeschool

Day 1008: Fourth Night

The fourth night of Hannukah is when we hit our stride. The kids are now pros at setting up the candles (melting the bottoms to stick them into the menorahs) and I’m a pro at frying sufganiyot. Oh man, those were some good donuts. Today’s dough was made by R, who also conquered her social anxiety to knock on the neighbour’s door and ask to borrow two eggs.

Tonight’s guest was my childhood bestie, the kids’ “Auntie S.” She saved our sufganiyot by bringing the seedless jam for the filling. We really don’t see her often enough—we’ll have to fix that once we’re back from our trip.

Because it’s Wednesday, we spent the afternoon at the homeschool meet-up in the park. It was sunny, but cold: zero degrees. My kids were running around with their jackets open, but I was nowhere near that warm, seeing how I was just sitting there. Inspiration struck this week, though, and I took a sleeping bag with me. I stepped in, zipped up, and sat down. I looked like a giant cocoon—not that I’m vain enough to let that stop me. I was warm and cozy for over an hour before I started to feel the chill.

Pic of me sitting in a folding camp chair, holding a travel mug in one arm, with my whole body encased in a sleeping bag.

As today was the winter solstice, it was nearly sunset when we left the park at 4:25. The days will only get longer and brighter from here, but I’m not willing to wait that long. Ten more days, and we’ll be on our way to summer in New Zealand.

Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · what's cookin'

Day 1007: Third Night

I didn’t skip a day of posting, I was just practicing for when we cross the international dateline and will miss January 1 completely—how weird is that?

Okay, fine. I missed yesterday’s post. I was totally wiped out and instead of blogging, I went to bed. According to my CPAP machine I got over ten hours of sleep… so why don’t I feel less tired? No matter. It’ll be early to bed for me tonight as well.

Ha! Did you see what I wrote up there? Early to bed tonight… don’t make me laugh!

We had so much fun tonight. Friends came over, we made sufganiyot, we ate them (the sufganiyot, not the friends.) Tonight’s fillings were blueberry, strawberry, and lemon curd.

The frying was actually much more successful than Sunday night’s attempt, thanks to the videos we watched about the science of donuts and the science of fried foods. We started using the cast iron pot instead of the soup pot, which kept the oil temperature consistent. I also rolled the dough thinner this time, so we didn’t have any doughy middles.

I also got a Chanukah present from myself: special earplugs that help me filter out background noise while allowing me to hear conversation at normal volume. I tested them at an event today—so far, so good. It was so exciting not to be driven out of my mind by background chatter. The kids all want a pair now, of course, but I think I’ll test drive these for a little longer before I buy any more.

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

Day 1005: First Night

Image of chanuka candles and a dreidel-shaped lantern in front of a window.

It’s been a crazy weekend. A party for E, then K’s all-teens sleepover, and then tonight we had some friends join us to light candles and make sufganiyot. It was wonderful, and busy, and full of laughter… and now I’m done.

I’ve cleaned the kitchen three times this weekend, and I can’t anymore. It’ll have to wait ’til tomorrow.

Happy Hannukah, everyone!

ADHD · blogging · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Keepin' it real · Teenagers · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 1004: Notes to Self

Dear Me-from-two-years-ago,

Thank you so much for organizing all of the Chanukah stuff after the holiday ended. We opened the box yesterday and I had everything I needed: Decorations, candles, a giant bag of shiny dreidels, even a box of chocolate gelt. Also matches, chanukah-themed stickers, and the Staccabees game. Your foresight and organization made it so easy to get ready for the holiday this year, and I promise I’ll pay it forward to future Me.


Dear Me-from-two-months-ago,

What were you thinking, emptying all the library’s shelves like that? I know, it seemed like a good idea at a time—who wouldn’t want an app that can scan every book, categorize it, and even keep track when someone borrows it—but two months later the library is still unusable. It’s essentially a monument to my ADHD: brilliant idea + zero follow-through = mess.

Do me a favour and don’t start any more projects. I know it’s hard for you, but I’m still cleaning up the library and I haven’t even finished the master bedroom curtains that Me-from-four-months-ago was supposed to complete. So please, go do something absolutely un-messy, like reading more Outlander fanfic. It would be a real help.


Dear Me-from-two-days-ago,

Thanks for coming up with the “make your own polar pizzas” idea for E’s party. It was much better than a regular birthday cake, especially for the picky eaters and kids with allergies. Keep the good ideas coming!


Dear Me-from-two-hours-ago,

Did you write a blog post for tonight like you were supposed to? I can’t find it anywhere on the computer. If it doesn’t turn up in the next hour or two, I’ll have to just post this letter.


Dear Me-from-two-minutes-ago,

I think everyone gets the point. Just stop typing and hit “publish” already. The teenagers downstairs are watching “Hamilton” and you need to either join them and sing along, or move to a different room so you don’t have to listen to their off-key singing.


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

Day 945: The Party’s Over

The beginning of the school year is weird for Jewish students everywhere (well, everywhere that starts school in September.) Unless the holy days fall on the weekend (it’s been known to happen,) we don’t have a single full week of school over a four-week period.

For someone like me, who struggles to stick to routines at the best of times, the stop-and-start of school makes it very hard to feel like we’re actually engaging in any learning activities. This is how I feel about it, not how it is; nevertheless, it takes until after Simchat Torah to feel like we’ve really, truly started our school year.

(The only year that I got right into the school routine was the year we started school in October, after spending September (and all of the holidays) at a cottage up north. The October start date made so much sense to me—maybe I should propose that we do it again next year.)

All of that preamble is for me to proclaim loudly: THE HOLIDAYS ARE OVER. WE CAN NOW RETURN TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED LIVES.

That is all.

Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Kids

Day 943: The Pictures not Taken

Tonight is Simchat Torah. Last week I signed us up for a dinner and hakafot (dancing with the Torah) at a nearby shul. When the time came to leave the house this evening I was in no mood for it; the kids were protesting; and I dragged us there anyway.

Dinner was great, with lots of options for picky eaters (all three of mine who were there ate something, which is more than I can say for most times we eat away from home.) As it turned out, I knew a lot of people there tonight and met some new ones as well. Best of all, my kids didn’t want to leave—so we didn’t, until we got kicked out (Mr. December often laments that I’m always the last one to leave any shul event.)

We interrupt this blog post to “explain you something,” as my Uncle Eric (z”l) used to say: I only had three kids with me at shul because R (of course) managed to get injured while swinging in the attic today (she tore a strip of skin right off the sole of her foot.) It wasn’t serious, but it was painful, and she decided to stay home and rest her foot. The silver lining here was that this incident prompted me to restock our first aid kit, which was low on gauze and BZK wipes.

And now, back to the originally scheduled blog post:

Several times my fingers itched to grab my phone and take a picture, but of course it’s a holiday, so no phone use in the building. Instead, I’ll leave a list here of the photos I wish I’d been able to take.

  • K carrying the Torah
  • N running back and forth with his friends
  • E at the end of a hora line (should have been a circle but it got disconnected,) spinning and twirling to the songs
  • N and his friend hanging out on the stairs in the hallway like they owned the place
  • E dancing with a small Torah scroll

Simchat Torah is the last in a four-week run of holidays, and I’m glad—I am so in need of a break. But I’m also very glad we went this evening. I got to actually see people in person whom I only ever see on Facebook, we had some interesting conversations, and—most importantly—my kids had a fabulous time at shul. They even want to go back again sometime. It’s a holiday miracle.

(Predictably, N just came downstairs, read this over my shoulder, and said, “I’m only going back for this holiday. Or any holiday where there’s candy… and my friend.” I guess it’s time to start doling out candy every time we go to shul.)