Darn Tootin' · Just the two of us

Day 418: What I can’t stop buying.

Some people just can’t stop buying books (*cough*Mr. December*cough*.) I have a similar problem, but it’s a bit noisier than the books; I can’t seem to stop buying musical instruments.

After buying E’s Nuvo Toot (beginner flute) and really liking it, I started looking at their more advanced student flutes. I read the reviews. I watched YouTube videos where professional flautists played the Nuvo flutes and their $10K professional silver flutes back-to-back. I started lusting after those flutes. And when I saw that they come in a metallic indigo colour… well, sign me up!

But wait! I already have a flute… don’t I?

Okay, fine, I do. But it’s a silver flute and the pads are all dried up and it’s a bit leaky, and repairing it would cost just a bit less than buying it brand new. In fact, the Nuvo flute was about half the price of fixing my silver flute. Not to mention the fact that it’s waterproof, washable, practically indestructible, and has silicone key pads that never dry out. It seems like a slam dunk from every angle, right?

As I considered these issues, I began to notice that Mr. December was frustrated when playing his clarinet. Like my flute, it went many years without proper maintenance. Like my flute, it would cost close to the purchase price to fix it. Unlike my flute, it had a crack in its bell. Combine those problems with the need to transpose music on sight when he played with us, and Mr. December was not having a good time, clarinet-wise.

Of course I noticed that Nuvo has an instrument that is essentially a C clarinet. I floated the idea to Mr. December and he was not opposed. Several days later, I’d ordered both instruments.

They took their sweet time coming… but tonight at dinnertime we received a box that was very light. Inside were our flute and clarinet. We ignored our children in favour of trying out the new instruments.

It was kind of disappointing. The clarinet is pretty small and doesn’t have all the same keys as a concert clarinet; Mr. December will have to spend some time with the fingering chart before he plays anything with the rest of us. The flute is beautiful (it actually camouflages very nicely in our library) but it feels a bit harder to get a sound out of—not what I would expect from an instrument geared towards students.

There’s a decent return policy on these instruments, so we’ve decided to try them out for a week or two and then decide whether they’re worth keeping. In the meantime, K gravitated towards the blue flute and spent some twenty minutes trying to play it.

“You know,” she ventured, “It gets boring only practicing one instrument all the time. If you keep this, will you teach me flute as well as viola? I really like the idea of having a few different instruments to choose from.”

So do I, kid. That’s how I got into this instrument-buying addiction in the first place.

Fibro Flares · Jewy goodness · Just the two of us · love and marriage · The COVID files

Day 407: Netflix and Chills

As many people warned me, today I felt pretty icky in the aftermath of my COVID shot. The good news is that my immune system is doing its job. The bad news is that I felt fluish and everything hurt—which I thought wouldn’t be a big deal since I’m used to everything hurting, but this pain was sharper and just… more, somehow.

We still managed to have a pretty nice evening, the Mr. and I. I popped Advil and Tylenol and then snuggled on the couch with Mr. December to watch On the Basis of Sex, the film about Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

On the one hand, it was really nice to watch a movie about a Jewish woman as the hero of the story. On the other hand… would it have killed the writers and producers to let her say “L’chaim” instead of “Cheers” as she and her husband toasted her new job? Or for her husband to refer to her mom as “Bubbie” instead of “Grandma” when telling their daughter about her?

But I’m quibbling over minutiae. The bottom line is that we had a lovely date night of Netflix and chills. (That is what the kids call it nowadays, right?)

Just the two of us · love and marriage · The COVID files

Day 406: Shots, Dinner, and a Movie

I got shot today.

Mr. December and I shot up together today.

Shoot me now.

The Mr. and I got our COVID vaccines today (AstraZenica, just like everyone else in our age bracket.) Getting shots is not as much fun as doing shots, but it was still more fun to do together than it would have been alone. It’s also easier to get a good angle on the obligatory vaccination selfie. The pharmacist assured me that the vaccine works just as well if you don’t take a selfie and post it online, but I’m not taking any chances. Can’t hurt, might help. Right?

Image description: a woman with brown hair, green glasses, a tie-dye face mask, and a green sweater. Her left shoulder is exposed and she is getting an injection.

Tonight we (as in, just the two of us) watched A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood. So now I have the friendliest earworm stuck in my head (“Please won’t you be my neighbour?”) and am thinking that my kids haven’t seen nearly enough Mr. Rogers.

It’s late and my arm is achy, but I’m thankful for the vaccine and for Mr. December. There’s nobody I’d rather do get shots with.

Fibro Flares · Just the two of us · quilty pleasures · whine and cheese

Day 319: I should probably practice

With this week’s fibro flare came a realization: I’m not very good at doing nothing.

“You should take some time off and rest. Do nothing,” Mr. December said. “You don’t have to work all the time.”

“And do what, exactly?” I countered.

“I dunno, watch TV?”

That’s how I ended up binge-watching Bridgerton. And then I started watching Derry Girls. It started to feel less ridiculously decadent after a while, but then it got… kind of boring. It reminded me of when I was just freshly concussed and couldn’t read or watch TV… or sit up for long, or follow a conversation. Most boring recovery ever.

I’ve known this about myself for a while now: eight (or so) years ago I went to Barbados for a month with my mum and three kids… and a sewing machine and a suitcase full of quilting supplies. I have to have something to do with my hands and mind, and there are only so many books I can read (back then my brain maxed out at 10 books a month, even with time for more.)

That’s why right now, spare time feels a bit torturous. My everything hurts, which means I can’t use my hands to play viola or guitar; I also can’t really sew for long stretches of time, or use my power tools. I feel like the guy in that Twilight Zone episode whose reading glasses have just broken when he has all the time in the world: “There was time!!!!!”

I did try recording a song parody I wrote about our homeschooling schedule challenges. After six takes I got one I really liked; then I realized that the sound quality was awful. Mr. December thinks I should get myself a good microphone. I don’t even know what makes a microphone good. But it’s a good parody, I think, and I want to make a music video out of it (I’m sure that could be a homeschool project for the kids, right? Video editing?), so I’ll probably end up looking for a mic tomorrow.

See? I’m supposed to be doing nothing (okay, resting) and instead I’ve recorded a song. I’m no good at this. Maybe I should try practicing some more tonight.

Just the two of us · Kids · parenting

Day 290: The Talk

One of the nice things about having two kids close together in age is that they move through developmental stages more or less together. R and N toilet-trained around the same time, are usually interested in the same books at the same time, and are doing the same non-math work in homeschool, together.

Know what else might happen more or less together?

Puberty.

I had informative (for them) conversations with both of them (separately) tonight.When I was done talking with R about periods, bras, and deodorant, I asked her for a performance review.

“So listen, R, I’m going to have to do this talk one more time for E. How did I do? Is there anything you think I should explain differently?”

“Nope.” She shook her head. “You did great. But I do have one question…”

“Go ahead,” I prompted, mentally steeling myself for whatever question she might spring on me.

She brandished her current book and huffed, “Will you please read to me already?”


With N, I mostly stuck to a gentle introduction of the topic and my thoughts about how he should probably start using deodorant. He was more receptive and less embarrassed than I thought he might be.

“I have a question,” he began, springing up from the bed and bouncing on his heels. “Will you show me how to use the deodorant?”

“I can if you want,” I said, “But you can also ask Abba. He’s probably better than me at the manly stuff.”

Better than me at the manly stuff, certainly. But Mr. December is definitely NOT better than me at talking about sex, puberty, or any of that typically “embarrassing” stuff… and by “not better than me” I mean that he just doesn’t and won’t talk to them about it. At least, he didn’t and wouldn’t last time I checked a few years ago; maybe it’s time to check in with him again.

The thing is, I’m pretty sure the most important thing to do when talking to kids about puberty and sex (aside from giving correct information, which I think is a no-brainer,) is to be calm, unflappable, and completely matter-of-fact. Mr. December is usually good at the first and last of those, but can a man who amuses his kids by pretending to be a chicken ever be considered unflappable?

Image description: a man wearing the headpiece of a chicken costume.
family fun · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Just the two of us · Kids · parenting · waxing philosophical

Day 272: 41-derful

Happy Birthday to me! As of today, the world has enjoyed my presence for 41 years.

I think we’ve done ourselves a disservice by glorifying youth. I really do. I don’t particularly want to be 25 again. University was fun, those early years of marriage were too, but I think I’m a better person for the last 16 years of life experience. Why would I want to give that up?

People keep asking me if I’m doing anything special today. My answer is one of two, either: “You know, these days it’s all special;” or, “Like what? We’re in lockdown. It’s not like I can do anything I’m not already doing.”

A few fun little things stand out, though:

  • This morning when the kids asked if they could have popsicles for breakfast I paused, about to say no, and then instead announced, “Heck, it’s my birthday. Popsicles for everyone!”
  • Tonight was Funnel Cake Night in our house.
  • I got to pick what we were ordering for dinner (Indian food.)
  • Our Language Arts lesson was a game of Scrabble, and literature is watching Gulliver’s Travels tonight after dinner.
  • I took time out in the afternoon to go for a walk and have some alone time with Mr. December (yes, I sold my kids’ souls to Disney for that hour. I regret nothing!)
  • My parents came over to light Hannukah candles and eat funnel cakes with us.

And the less fun thing (although my inner mama bear finds it deeply fulfilling) was taking care of N today while he recovered from his tonsillectomy. I showed him the lego pain scale so we could keep tabs on whether he had adequate pain control. There’s nothing sadder than a kid begging for Advil an hour before he’s allowed another dose (and yes, we’re staggering Advil and Tylenol so he’s got constant coverage.) So I spent some extra time snuggling and hugging him. I’m not happy he’s feeling awful, but I do enjoy the snuggles.

And that’s it… my birthday is over almost as soon as it began. Maybe I’ll just do as the rabbis did and declare that outside of Israel, birthdays are a two-day celebration.

Yes, that will do nicely. Popsicle breakfast for everyone!

Independence · Just the two of us · Keepin' it real · The COVID files · what's cookin'

Day 263: Shopping for Six

Ever since COVID-19 hit Canada, I’ve felt a little weird when I buy groceries. I suspect it looks a lot like hoarding when my grocery list includes four loaves of bread, eight litres of milk, four dozen eggs, four or five packages of sliced cheese, and four pounds of strawberries, among all the other produce and random stuff we buy.

Here’s the thing, though: if you do the math, it quickly becomes clear why my cart usually resembles nothing more than those heaps of clothes in my childhood closet that threatened to spill out as soon as anyone opened the door. Let’s start with breakfast: If all six of us want eggs and toast, that’s a dozen eggs (two each) and pretty much a whole loaf of bread (which usually has fifteen slices, if I recall correctly.) If the kids want grilled cheese for lunch, we’ll need another loaf of bread and a package and a half of sliced cheese (11 slices in a pack, two slices per sandwich, some of the kids eat two sandwiches.)

This week we ran out of milk two days after buying a 4 litre bag (yep, all of you foreign folks, our milk comes in bags.) We’re not big milk drinkers, but the kids have milk with their cereal—and lately cereal has been a staple for breakfasts and bedtime snacks. It’s dumb, but I feel really annoyed that I have to shop again so soon. Seriously, guys? It’s almost as bad as when I buy strawberries: a 454 gram (one pound) box of strawberries means maybe five strawberries each (if they’re not huge), so they don’t last very long. And have I mentioned that strawberries and bananas are the only fruits N will eat?

Sometimes I stand in the dairy section and look at those little half-cartons of eggs (six to a pack) and wonder what good those are. Six eggs is the exact right number for my challah recipe, which I make every Friday. I suppose there will come a time when my children have left home and it’s just me and Mr. December, and we’ll buy six eggs and have them last a week.

(Who am I kidding? With real estate in Toronto being as pricey as it is, it’s likely that at least some of our children will be living with us well into the adult years.)

In the meantime, I think I’ll encourage independence in my kids by sending them to the grocery store for more milk. It’s like they say at camp, “You kill it, you fill it.”

crafty · DIY · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Just the two of us

Day 259: Always with the Dreidels

If I asked my non-Jewish friends to name one Chanukah song, they’d probably start singing “I have a little dreidel,” which makes me crazy because there are many beautiful Chanukah songs—and the dreidel song is NOT one of them. Alas, the dreidel song remains popular.

If you google Chanukah decorations, you’ll get a few menorahs and a whole lotta dreidels.

Given my knowledge and appreciation of the holiday, I would’ve predicted that my homemade Chanukah decorations would feature some lesser-used Chanukah motifs, like oil jugs or doughnuts, and yet dreidels are my go-to. I wasn’t even paying attention to it until I sat up here at my desk and noticed the view of my new garland:

Sigh. All dreidels. At least I didn’t restrict myself to blues and silvers. Today I made the mistake of telling Mr. December that I had a few small Chanukah surprises for the kids, including Jelly Belly jellybeans in Chanukah colours. He jumped on that one right away.

“Chanukah colours? Did I miss some rabbinic declaration? Or is that laid out in the Torah somewhere?”

I mean, of course it’s not in the Torah. Chanukah itself isn’t in the Torah. But somewhere along the line, blue and silver became the unofficial colours of Chanukah as surely as Christmas is all about the red, green, and gold.

This could turn into a much longer post in which I agonize over the same old “December Dilemma”: where is the line between Chanukah decorations that are festive and appropriate, and those that are just aping Christmas (which is kind of ironic when you’re talking about a holiday that celebrates us resisting assimilation?) But there’s nothing new about this discussion, even as it rages over my own dinner table.

You see, I couldn’t resist the idea of things that are pretty and shiny, so now I have one hundred silver and metallic blue dreidels to use. I also happen to have a jar of craft jewels in shades of blue and turquoise. The result of a little crafting in the basement was a bejeweled (be-dreideled?) placard on which I plan to write Happy Chanukah or maybe חג שמח. Mr. December took one look at it and declared it too “non-Jewish” looking (fine, he used the G word, which is considered offensive these days.) Of course he followed that with, “It’s very pretty. You did a great job. It’s just kind of Christmassy.”

But back to the dreidels. Why are they so popular as decorations? I’m not an authority of any kind, but from my perspective it’s this simple: they’re easy to make. All straight lines, a combination of a simple square, an equilateral triangle, and a tiny rectangle. When you need to churn out decorations in a jiffy, the dreidel is as easy—and as lazy—as it gets.

So I pushed myself to get un-lazy. I found a few different shapes I liked, traced them, and turned the page into a jpeg to post here. Think of it as my Chanukah gift to you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with 91 dreidels and a glue gun.

family fun · Just the two of us · Keepin' it real · love and marriage

Day 246: Team

“Do you have a curved one-zero-zero-zero?” Mr. December asks.

“What?” I furrow my brow in confusion.

“A one-zero-zero-zero.” He explains, then holds up a puzzle piece that looks like this:

“Oh!” I exclaim. “You mean an Inukshuk-looking dude with spade-shaped feet!”

And that, my friends, is the difference between an engineer and an artist. Mr. December is sorting the puzzle pieces by encoding their ins and outs in binary. I, on the other hand, have sorted them into the following categories:

Clockwise from top: Cartoon mouth, Inukshuk dude with spade-shaped feet, Stingray, Four-way arrow.

  • Inukshuk dude with spade-shaped feet
  • Inukshuk dude with flat feet
  • Four-way arrow
  • Comic-book burst
  • Stingray
  • Cartoon mouth

Not that it makes a difference to our ability to do the puzzle, I just find the whole thing rather amusing.


Way back in March, Mr. December decided we should stock up on non-perishables “just in case.” He went to No Frills and came back with rice, canned beans, dried beans, rolled oats, and two bars of dark chocolate.

“What is this?” I asked as I unpacked.

“Emergency provisions,” he said.

“Honey, we’re not preparing for a zombie apocalypse where the kids will just be thankful they have something to eat. We’re preparing for a possible quarantine, where everything’s fine, everyone’s bored, and the kids are still picky.”

The next day I went out and bought dried fruits, shelf-stable milk, nuts, chocolate chips, canned fruit, vegetable broth in a box, and canned corn. You know, the stuff that makes staples like oatmeal and rice taste good.

We’re good that way, Mr. December and I. There’s very little overlap in our skill sets, which means we function better together than apart; and because we’re aware that our skills differ, we can avoid the whole “Whose job is this?” question and just stick to our respective strengths. He figures out how many cans of beans we need and emphasizes the need for a FIFO system, and then I go and build it. He makes sure things are efficient and scalable; I make the actual things that enable us to be efficient and scalable, and I add some beauty, because that’s important too.

We’re lucky to have each other. Even when Especially when he talks in binary and I speak in images.

DIY · hackin' it · Jewy goodness · Just the two of us

Day 234: Take Stuff Apart

I put up a lamp over R’s desk today. The cord was way too long, and rather than just tying it with a cable tie and forgetting about it, I figured out how to shorten it.

The lamp is one of these:

So I looked at the hole where the cord comes out and thought, Maybe I can just stuff the cord in there. I tried, but I could only get a few centimetres in.

So I opened the back of the metal part that attaches to the wall and had a look. Inside there was a white plastic box that was screwed shut.

If it can be screwed shut, then it can be unscrewed and opened, I reasoned. So I opened up the inside of the lamp. Inside I found more cords and what I assume is some sort of LED-friendly transformer. I also found a bunch of empty space. So I filled it:

Then I mounted the lamp on the wall beside R’s desk and patted myself on the back for a job well done.


I took apart our sukkah frame today. The walls actually came down (and got washed, folded, and neatly stowed in a plastic box) the day after Sukkot ended, but the frame has been up this whole time.

I couldn’t find the ladder I had used to put the frame up. A normal person might have gone looking for the ladder; I am not a normal person. I thought about it for a minute and then figured out how to take down the sukkah without needing a ladder at all. And if I can take it down without a ladder, doesn’t it follow that I could put it up without a ladder next year?

Bear with me for a moment while I write a note to myself:

Dear Me,
Next year when you take out the sukkah frame, assemble it as follows:
1. Assemble the north wall (two posts and top beam) and attach the first ⅔ of each north-south ceiling beam as well.
2. Use the partial ceiling beams to push the north wall frame upright. Secure posts by screwing them into the fence.
3. Assemble the south wall (two posts, top and bottom beams) and lay it out on the ground, with the bottoms near the base of the north wall.
4. Attach the last ⅓ of each ceiling beam to the other ⅔. Then attach the free end to the south wall assembly (which is still lying on the ground.)
5. Before you raise the south wall into place, attach the bird netting to the ceiling.
6. Attach the 2×3 to the wall of the house with the blue concrete screws. The anchors are already in the brick.
7. NOW raise the south wall into place. Attach the south-west post to the 2×3 with pipe clamps and screws.
8. Anchor the south-east post with a concrete deck block.
9. Give yourself a pat on the back. You’re awesome.
Love,
Me.


One more thing got taken apart today, but it won’t ever be reassembled. Our fancy corkscrew died. The arm wasn’t moving like it was supposed to, so Mr. December started to fiddle with it.

“Do you have a hammer?” he asked. “I think if I just tap on this part I can get these cogs to line up again.”

We went down to the makery. Several taps of the hammer later, it wasn’t looking good for our corkscrew.

“Uh, sweetheart?” I offered, “Maybe this metal piece with the snapped-off edge has something to do with the malfunction…”

“It’s dead, Jim.”

I was right. Of course I was—putting stuff together is my area of expertise. So is online shopping, which comes in handy for replacing things that get broken, if a replacement is needed. Most of the time, though, I can fix things—or even improve them—by taking them apart.