education · Homeschool · Just the two of us · Kids

Day 566: Hi, School?

I can’t believe we’re here already: it’s time to make a decision about K and high school.

She has options. She can go to the Gifted program that we’re zoned for; she can apply to an arts-focused high school for visual arts; she can write the entrance exam for a math-and-science focused program. All three of those options are in the public school system; all three of them will put her on a pretty solid track towards university.

There’s also the option of an alternative school that operates on a democratic school model: each student chooses what they want to learn and how they want to learn it, and teachers play a supporting role as facilitators and advisors. To me, this option sounds a lot like homeschooling, but with the added attraction of other students and a wider variety of teachers. To Mr. December, this option sounds terrible. I’ve tried to suggest he consider it as a type of homeschooling option, because right now he’s hung up on the idea that there are no credits and no diploma (students from this alternative school apply to universities the same way homeschooled teens do.)

Of course, she can also choose to homeschool again next year and reconsider high school in Grade 10; but I’d like that to be a conscious choice and not just a default “Uh-oh, didn’t decide soon enough. Guess I’m homeschooling.”

I compiled an email for her with the available options (that we’re willing to consider: there are more high school options in the Toronto District School Board than I thought) and all of the application deadlines. The ball is in her court to choose which open house events she’d like to attend, and then where she wants to apply. It feels like a very small-scale version of the university decision she’ll have to make in four short years.

Wait. What? Four years?!?! That’s not much time. I think I’ll go give her an extra-long tuck-in now.

Just the two of us · Keepin' it real · parenting · Renovation · whine and cheese

Day 557: Who needs it? I do.

I never understood the point of huge “master suites” in otherwise normal houses. Toronto real estate is expensive; why would you waste so much of it on a sitting area when you already have a living room and a family room, and maybe a rec room? Mr. December agreed with me, so when we designed our house we made our bedroom big enough for a king-size bed and some bedside tables. When she suggested that it was too small, our architect was outvoted.

For the most part, I’ve been happy with our decision: the bedroom does what we need it to do, our bathroom is the right size for the way we use it, and we’ve got plenty of storage in our closet. Sometimes, though, I start to wish I’d designed a whole big suite just for the two of us.

I didn’t feel the need for so much private space when the kids were little (probably because they went to bed long before us and I had time and space to myself anywhere I wanted it.) These days, however, there’s always someone awake until I go to bed, and the same kids who mostly ignore me during the day always need to talk to me after bedtime.

Mr. December just came out of someone’s room and asked if we could maybe go to sleep earlier tonight. Instead of a very reasonable, “Sure, I’m just finishing up my blog post,” I unleashed my exasperation on him: “Oh my God, seriously, can everybody just stop talking to me for, like, five minutes so I can finish a sentence?!?!?”

It’s becoming very clear that I need an office with a door. Or a giant suite to which I can retreat at nine p.m. after proclaiming that I’m done for the night. Until then I’ll be right here, practicing my relaxation techniques so my cortisol level doesn’t spike every time I hear someone talking to me after bedtime.

community · Just the two of us · Kids · love and marriage · waxing philosophical

Day 540: A love letter.

This is my favourite time of year.

Not for the insanity of the Jewish holidays (5 in one month!) or for the end of the summer break; no, I love it for the weather. Cool (but not too cold) at night and warm (but not too hot) during the day. It’s shorts-and-a-sweatshirt weather. The sky is clear and blue, the trees still have their leaves. It’s just a pleasure to be outside these days.

Actually, there are a lot of pleasures these days; More and more I’m noticing my feelings of contentment at odd times of the day and night. I’ll be reading in the back-porch hammock, or turning off lights someone left on in the library, or even emptying the dishwasher, and suddenly I’ll stop and think, “I love our life.”

I love Mr. December, of course, and I love how great a team we are. I love the house we’ve built together—seriously, I love this house so much—and the family we have together. I adore the kids and what’s more, I love seeing them together and I love watching them grow up. Our parents are all alive and well and living in the same city, and they’re a tremendous help and support to us. We have very good friends and neighbours.

We live in a neighbourhood that’s beautiful and safe, with public parks and a subway and shops nearby. We have biking paths, a community orchard, and a local farmers’ market.

I am, in short, lucky. Insanely, improbably so. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that life is completely unfair and often random; and it’s generally been unfair in my favour, which I appreciate every day.

There’s really nothing like this sense of great contentment, especially at this time of year. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going outside in my shorts and sweatshirt to sit in a hammock and sip some tea, and contemplate how very much I love this life.

crafty · DIY · Just the two of us · Keepin' it real

Day 529: A bit better

Image description: a clear plastic shoe organizer on the back of a white door; the pockets are filled with craft supplies.

I am not made for idleness. Today’s enforced rest—no building, no assembly, no practicing my instruments—really got on my nerves. Proving that I’m constitutionally incapable of not doing something, I went digging around in the storage room and found a plastic back-of-door shoe organizer and said, “Ha! This is perfect for organizing the craft room!”

I couldn’t install the screws or hooks to hang it on; but Mr. December was amenable to helping me do this completely random and not-strictly-necessary task (he’s been admonishing me to rest for a few days, but he’s smart enough to know that sometimes it’s just a good idea to humour me.) All I needed from him was to install four screws into the back of the craft room door, and as soon as he’d done it, I started filling the pockets of the shoe organizer with all kinds of non-shoe things: pipe cleaners, rolls of contact paper, bingo dabbers, pom poms, popsicle sticks, fake autumn leaves. They’d all been stuffed together in a single bin I called “craft supplies overflow”; now I can see everything at once.

(Don’t worry, I managed to do it all one-handed. I may be impatient, but I’m not completely reckless.)

It’s better. Not by a lot, but by enough… kind of like my hand, which isn’t bleeding profusely, but is still sore. Improvement is improvement, no matter how small. Right?


Our homeschool year starts tomorrow. I’m as ready as I’m gonna be… wish me luck.

Homeschool · Just the two of us

Day 525: Well, that’s a switch…

Something strange is happening over here.

I’m planning out my homeschool lessons. In most subjects I’m using published curricula where all I have to do is open the book and follow instructions. I’ve set it all up in the online planning tool I bought, so that each day’s lessons and assignments are presented as a checklist. Each kid will have their own login, and they can check items off as they do them.

In the meantime, Mr. December has been reading some cool books about math—not about teaching math, mind you, just about mathematical concepts. This morning I heard him say, “Actually, I think I’m just gonna teach some interesting stuff every day. I’m probably not going to bother planning ahead.”

Excuse me, what? Mr. “Everything-is-better-with-copious-planning” is just going to wing it, while I—Ms. “So-much-learning-happens-spontaneously”—am planning everything down to the worksheet? What the heck is going on?

I was going to hazard a guess, but I actually have nothing to suggest. It’s a very weird role reversal that I had not anticipated. I think we all know why I’m going the route of something much more structured—with depression and fibromyalgia ready to rear their ugly heads, I want to know that the planning is done for me—but what made Mr. December relax so thoroughly? Maybe—if we’re lucky—I can get him to answer that question as a guest blogger.

Just the two of us · Keepin' it real

Day 510: How we Read

Today I didn’t take the kids anywhere. I didn’t build, make, or organize anything. Instead, I read a book… while eating popsicles… in the hammock. Heaven.

I’m not often able to shrug off the “to do”s and the “should”s (although I do have a policy of never “should-ing” all over myself) and just relax at home. Normally I have to go somewhere else, where my computer and bills and half-finished projects aren’t there to guilt me. But today, for whatever reason, I did it. I’m so proud of me.

I’ve been working my way through Julia Quinn’s entire oeuvre. Bridgerton, of course, but also all her other books. I love to read fluff for entertainment—something that Mr. December doesn’t seem to really get.

He’s a non-fiction reader: he reads to learn about things. When he reads, Mr. December will stop every so often to think about what he’s just read; sometimes he’ll apply a little sticky flag to mark an important passage. He reads in a way that I always think of as virtuous: he reads things that are Important and Educational.

I, on the other hand, will read anything as long as it’s entertaining and well-written. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a published book or not, whether it’s written by a professional or an amateur, whether it’s fanfiction or an original work; all that matters is that the writer knows how to write and can make me care about their characters. A few steamy scenes are also an asset.

I read voraciously, and often finish a book in a single sitting (if left to my own devices.) I often forget exactly what I’ve just read, but I remember the beautiful turns of phrase that jump out at me, or the unfortunate malapropisms that an editor didn’t catch (for example, Wickham hurling epitaphs at Darcy.) I also never forget that I thoroughly enjoyed an author’s work.

I’ve finally stopped feeling disappointed in myself for not wanting to read a lot of serious works. I mostly read for fun, and that’s fine. There’s so much joy to be gained from seeing words used masterfully. It would be nice if I could put a book down to go to sleep, though.

*Big yawn*

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.”