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.

Just the two of us · love and marriage

Day 457: Seventeen

It’s our seventeenth wedding anniversary today; and just like our wedding day, we’re sharing it with Fathers’ Day.

I have no idea how we have seventeen years of marriage under our belts. I don’t feel old enough, somehow. But I also feel like we’ve been together forever. Which we kind of have, since I met Mr. December when I was fifteen and started dating him when I was seventeen.

I was going to tell you about how I predicted that we’d get married before we’d properly met; then I realized I told you the story last year. The downside of having celebrated so many anniversaries is that I’m running out of material. It’s a great problem to have.

Seventeen years of marriage—which I once described as “like having a sleepover with your best friend every night, except you’re both exhausted because you stay up way too late talking. Every night.”

Seventeen years of him making me laugh at his antics and elaborate pranks.

Did I tell you about the time we went to an open house for a school we were considering? There we were, in the classroom, a teacher standing at the board talking at us about something or other. Suddenly I heard, “PSSST!” and turned to see him passing me a note. It was like he’d never left grade five. When I opened the note to see what was so important he couldn’t wait five minutes, it read: “I think you’re cute.”

I think he’s cute, too. Always have, always will.

Happy anniversary, my love!

Not a wedding picture. But here we are, roughly eighteen years ago, celebrating our engagement.
DIY · IKEA · Just the two of us · Keepin' it real · Sartorial stuff · whine and cheese

Day 447: FFS

Today can be summed up in a single word:

ARRRGGGGGHHHH!!!!

Okay, fine. Not a word. But that’s not the point.

I had a day without kids today—a full day to catch up on all kinds of big and little tasks. I had plans.

I picked up the blackout roller shades I had ordered. The ones in the library looked pretty good (given that the library colour is hard to match) and they went up fairly easily once I understood the system. Too bad one of them seems to be defective—the rod isn’t working to raise and lower them. Strike one.

I then went upstairs to start installing the shades in my bedroom. I got two (out of four) of them up; then I realized that the curtains will catch on the roller shade mounting brackets, which doesn’t bode well for long-term use. Also, one of the two is malfunctioning the same way as the one in the library. Strike two.

“Just stop buying from IKEA!” Mr. December blurted in exasperation. “They have cool ideas but their window stuff doesn’t work!”

Oh, and while I was installing one of the bedroom shades, I bend down to swap out the screwdriver head (the alternate one was on the windowsill and I was on a stepstool.) I straightened up to finish the job and—THUD—hit my head on the top part of the window casing. Ouch. Strike three.

I prayed that this knock on the noggin would be nothing and I wouldn’t even have to mention it to anyone. My head had other plans, though. As I climbed off the stepstool I felt just a bit woozy—kind of dizzy, kind of “off”—and grudgingly admitted this might be a very mild concussion. I lay down to rest a while.

Tonight I’m shopping (seems like that’s all I do these days) for some clothes for Mr. December. He was jealous of my hiking pants last weekend, so I was ordering some for him. Also shorts. Then I saw that they had sundresses with pockets that I knew the girls would love, so I put those in the cart too. Swim shorts for N were $15. And so on, until I was ready to check out… at which point I realized that I was on the U.S. site, not Canadian, and that the fabulous sale prices were only available in the U.S.

Which strike is that? Four? I’m starting to lose count.

At least today is over, and four strikes in one day isn’t such a bad score; I’ve had much worse. I’m going to go make a cup of tea, enjoy some kid-free downtime with Mr. December, and then—

RING, RING

Just a minute—

“Hello? Oh, hi, Mum… they want to come home? Okay, sure… see you soon.”

Scrap that. Back into mommy mode. Kid cuddles, here I come.

family fun · Just the two of us · Keepin' it real · Kids · love and marriage · snarky · whine and cheese

Day 442: Conflicted

I was conflicted.

On the one hand, I wanted to ask my husband to go on without me, finish the hike, and then come pick me up with the car.

On the other hand, I wanted to kill him.

I was crouched on a hillside, trying to scoot my way down the hill without sliding in the mud or twisting an ankle. The ground was covered in thin pieces of stone, most of which were very loose. To make matters worse, the leaves on the ground made it nigh on impossible to tell where the ground was stable and where there were big holes. And did I mention that there was broken glass on the ground, too?

Eight kilometres doesn’t sound like a big deal, and it wouldn’t be if the path were both even and relatively flat. It wasn’t. The elevation map warned us of all the uphill and downhill sections, but the worst part of it was that most of the trail was very rocky. My ankle stability has never been good and my balance has been a bit off ever since my concussion; so you can imagine why I was already a bit peeved by the time Mr. December led us down this steep hill that was almost certainly NOT part of the trail.

Granted, there were a few fun moments; when we took the wrong path and ended up across the road from a country market and bakery, where we bought a strawberry-rhubarb pie and ate it with our bare hands; when we crossed the river near the top of the falls and I took off my shirt, soaked it in the water, and put it back on (aaaahhh, that’s better); when R and I walked along singing our favourite round:

“Black socks, they never get dirty!
The longer you wear them, the blacker they get.
Sometimes I think I should launder them;
Something inside me says ‘don’t wash them yet.’
Not yet… Not yet… Not yet… Not yet.”

But there were far too many sections of trail where it was all I could do to focus on my footing. About halfway back to the car my legs were hurting and my balance was suffering. Of course, N was pretty miserable at this point, so I tried very hard to be positive and cheerful: “See, kiddo? We’re almost there. Soon we’ll be back at the car where there’s plenty of bottled water and air conditioning. Then we can kill Abba.”

As a parent, I want to model grit and mental toughness to my kids. I try not to wimp out of challenging activities. This hike may have broken me of that tendency.

“From now on,” I told him as I drove home, “I’ll walk in with you guys for about fifteen minutes. Then I’ll turn around and go back to the car, drive to the end point of the hike, and walk in about fifteen minutes to meet you.”

“That’s probably for the best,” he agreed, obviously trying to placate his wife who had only just stopped threatening murder.

“And now,” I intoned, “Let us never speak of this again.”

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!