Keepin' it real · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 411: Technical Difficulties

You know, all these cordless devices are a real pain in the butt. My mouse likes to tell me to charge it immediately, with no prior notice that its battery is getting low. Sometimes the keyboard is nonresponsive—although it uses removable batteries, so I can swap them out and keep on working. And then there’s what happened tonight when I tried to record myself singing for a video performance by a group from our synagogue.

I was ready. Really, I was. I even brushed my hair for the occasion. My computer and phone were propped up on the music stand; I had one earbud in so I could hear the song. I hit “record” on the phone and “play” on the computer.

For the first verse and a half, all was well. Then my phone stopped recording the video because the battery dropped below 25%. I accepted that I’d have to go plug in my phone and wait for it to charge up. But while I was waiting, why not listen to my part a few more times? Answer: because two lines into the track, my headphones beeped and switched themselves off. Great.

I guess the good news is that I didn’t start doing it after the kids’ bedtime—then there would have been no chance of getting it finished tonight. As of right now, my phone is at 71% power and still charging. My headphones are charging too, they just don’t want to tell me how much more time they need. I’m assuming that by 8:30 I’ll be ready to try recording again.

8:40 p.m. update: I wasn’t ready at 8:30 because I has having my butt handed to me by a 6-year-old in a vicious game of Azul. I finally scraped out a 2-point lead, but it was close. Now I’ll have to wait ’til after 9:00, because the kids are currently making and eating their bedtime snacks.

10:18 p.m. update: I’m done, but it wasn’t easy. Just as I started recording, someone ran through the upstairs hallway. ThumpThumpThumpThump. Then K dropped something in her room, which is directly above where I was recording. I started again. And again… at which point I realized that we were asked to wear something that was a different colour from our background. I was wearing a violet-blue shirt in my purple-blue library. Oops. I’m submitting it anyhow and hoping it’s acceptable.

crafty · DIY · Homeschool · Keepin' it real

Day 409: Success or Failure?

I’d like to thank you all for your input on yesterday’s rug dilemma. I’d like to thank you, but in reality Mr. December is thanking you… because the overwhelming majority chose the navy blue rug, which he likes. I prefer the bright colours of the other rug, and I feel like the busyness of the pattern would fade into the background after a while. The navy rug has a lot of this dusty rose colour and burnt orange, neither of which I’m fond of.

Oh, well. Back goes the pretty rug, and my green couch will remain completely unrelated to anything else in the room. I tried.

And for those of you who recognized the title of yesterday’s post, this nostalgic little video is for you. But it’s one heck of an earworm—don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Since the term began, we’ve been working on pottery in art class. My brilliant idea was for us to make replicas of Greek pottery including the meandros ornamentation and the images from Greek myths.

So far it’s been a flop. Literally. I’ve tried a few different things now, and every piece I’ve made has cracked or collapsed. So has N’s amphora, which for a while looked like a success.

But as N pointed out, maybe our pottery pieces are a success… as in, we’ve successfully recreated broken pieces of ancient pottery. Maybe we should just decorate them anyway, display them in a museum-style shadow box with numbered labels, and call it a win.

It used to be centred. Really. Then it flopped over, and now it’s just a flop.

blogging · family fun · Keepin' it real · whine and cheese

Day 401: Noise Pollution

This is my fourth draft for tonight. I’ve been trying to write a heartfelt post about how glad I am that Friday’s post made so many people feel seen and understood. But Mr. December and the kids are watching some foolishness on our the new TV, and it’s way too loud for me to think.

I was afraid of this. We’ve watched far more TV than we would have if we had to watch upstairs in the attic or on one of the computers. It’s too much. Maybe it’s time for me to hide the remote and push everyone outside—although that also has the potential to fail the way it did today.

It’s springtime, which I know not because of the calendar or the weather, but because my neighbour’s lawn care guy is back at it, spending thirty minutes using a leaf blower to make sure there are no grass clippings anywhere on the lawn. It’s the same leaf blower as in years past: gas-powered, smelly, and obnoxiously loud. And it’s the same time slot as last year, too: between 4:30 and 5:30 on Sunday afternoon, A.K.A. right when you want to be outside with your family.

So of course today when I declared that there would be no more screen time until everyone had spent at least an hour outside, we opened the back door to the sound (and smell) of the leaf blower. Grrr.

Short of petitioning City Hall to ban leaf blowers (or at least the gas-powered kind) there’s not much I can do about that; but the TV noise is a problem of my own making. Can anyone remind me why we bought the TV? I can’t remember anymore. Or maybe I just can’t think of it over the sound of YouTube on the big screen.

Keepin' it real · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 400: See…my…vest…

Mr. December is tired of hearing about this, so I’m telling you instead. I love my vest… and my dress… and the other dress… and my leggings…

Since I made my resolution to only buy clothes that fit me right now (no aspirational sizes,) have pockets, are comfortable, and (if possible) are produced ethically, I’ve bought six items of clothing. Four of them are among my favourites, and a fifth would be if my hands would cooperate long enough for me to take in the seams a bit. And when I say favourites, I mean that I can’t stop grinning when I wear them, because they’re just so awesome.

The kids are getting jealous. When we leave the house, I put on my new fleece vest—the one with fifteen pockets—and immediately offer to clean anyone’s glasses, because there’s a microfiber glasses cleaning cloth attached to one of the inner pockets. Then I offer to carry masks for everyone, because there’s lots of room for them in another pocket. And so on. I’m not trying to rub it in, but it’s just such a novelty for me to know where everything is (there’s a stretchy keychain attached inside one of the pockets for my car keys) and to have room for everything I want to bring with me (even a Kobo or an actual book)!

“Would you stop rubbing it in?!?” R demands every time.

“Can you get me one of those, too?” K begs.

“Maybe,” is my noncommittal reply to both.

They say the opposite of entitlement is gratitude. I guess it’s gratitude that I’m feeling when I think, Boy, am I glad I bought this dress, or It’s so easy to be happy when you’re wearing good socks! Whatever it is, I’m thoroughly enjoying the experience. And while I could wax poetic about my new threads all day, I have to hold back so I don’t end up doing a song-and-dance routine à la Monty Burns.

But if I did, it would go something like this…
(to the tune of “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast)

See… my… vest, see my vest
Go on, tell me you’re impressed
It’s got fifteen different pockets
So with storage space I’m blessed
Sunglasses go right here
There’s a chamois for them, dear
This one here has got a channel
for my earbud wires to travel

See my dress! My black dress!
Made to measurements, no less
It is soft and very comfy
And the pocket isn’t lumpy
I can bike, I can dance
And I don’t need to wear pants
Yes, this purchasing decision was my best
Go on, hand me your mask
(Maybe your coffee flask)
I’ve got no stress with these pockets in my dress!

Life was disconcerting,
And my ego it was hurting
When I couldn’t find my wallet or my phone,
Most days I’d waste so many minutes searching
At least I didn’t often leave my home.
All these years I’ve been waiting,
All my tiny pockets hating,
I didn’t want to always carry ’round a purse
Most days I’d just give stuff to my husband
But when he wasn’t with me,
Oh, what angst my stuff would give me…

My… new… clothes… piece by piece
Give me comfort, give me ease
Having pockets for my phone is just the best
Go on, hand me your stuff, you see I’m totally chuffed
‘Cause of my vest… and my dress…
Oh please, won’t you see… my… VEST!

Simpsons boss explains the real story behind one iconic Mr Burns moment
Image description: Montgomery Burns (from the Simpsons) wearing a gorilla-chest vest. His vast dressing room is in the background.
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.

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.

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

Day 381: Kitchen Turnover

For those who don’t know, on Passover we change over our entire kitchens—dishes, pots, utensils—so that there will be no trace of leavened things, which we’re forbidden to have on Pesach. Most of the people I know call this “turning over the kitchen.”

There’s a particular feeling of accomplishment in having washed, dried, and packed up all of the Passover kitchen stuff within 24 hours of the holiday ending. We don’t use our dishwasher on Pesach, so this is always a monumental task. I did it today and it took about three hours. I felt so proud of myself.

I did have some help: R got up early this morning and started to wash the dishes herself, so I wouldn’t have to do it all (thanks, R!) She came to me when I was still waking up and told me that she’d broken a plate.

“That’s okay,” I said, “these things happen.” Meanwhile, my inner voice cheered, That’s one less dish to wash! Whee!

Anyhow, everything was finally packed away by dinnertime and I was feeling very satisfied. Then after dinner I went to get a tupperware container for leftovers; I opened the drawer and my satisfaction evaporated. There in the drawer were my Passover casseroles and serving dishes that I had entirely forgotten about. I wasn’t done after all.

I closed the drawer quietly, turned away, and tried to pretend I hadn’t seen its contents. I’ll deal with it tomorrow. Sufficient to this day is the kitchen turnover thereof, or something like that.

Image description: two open drawers, one above the other, containing some glass casseroles, a colander, and some jars. Evidence that I’m not done turning over the kitchen yet.

bikes planes and automobiles · el cheapo · Keepin' it real · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 380: Anti-Theft System

There have been a lot of car thefts in our area lately. It seems that every few days someone else posts on the neighbourhood Facebook group that their car was stolen, and the comments section is soon peppered with discussions of Faraday cages, The Club™, and other anti-theft measures. Despite all this, I have no fears of my car being stolen; you see, I have my own patented anti-theft system that I use for my car and my cellphone.

Here’s how it works: my stuff is functional but old-looking (and usually just plain old.)

Our car is a 2012 minivan with peeling paint and a dented side panel. It’s a workhorse that hauls lumber, bikes, and people. It’s pretty comfy to boot, with seat warmers in the front and a separate heat/ac system for the passengers in the back. It’s served us well for the past nine years and we plan to drive it for at least another six.

My phone is a 2016 iPhone SE. I bought it used in 2017 and immediately covered it with the most waterproof, shock-proof, me-proof cover I could find. It’s not new, pretty, or flashy, but it takes good photos and serves as my external brain; I don’t need or want anything fancier.

My anti-theft system works because, as Mr. December drily observed, even thieves have standards—and apparently, their standards are higher than my own. Just further proof that lower standards are the key to happiness.

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.

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

Day 368: Good Day Sunshine

(With apologies to anyone who now has that Beatles song stuck in their head…)

We’re on a four-day streak of beautiful weather. It’s been 12 or 13 degrees (celsius) here since Saturday; and as some of you know, 10 degrees is the threshold past which Canadian children shuck off their coats and sweaters and run around in t-shirts and shorts. The kids have spent hours playing outside (as they should) and even Mr. December and I have taken advantage of the weather to sit on the back patio and daydream together about how our backyard will look when the landscaper finally gets back to us and we can transform the mud pit into something more usable.

I hear tomorrow morning will be rainy, which is unfortunate; we’re going on a field trip to a sugar bush. In a rare example of what homeschooling was like pre-covid, another homeschool parent arranged a bunch of tours at this maple farm and invited people to sign up for the day that worked for them. I can imagine in a year or so when people have gotten vaccines and the COVID panic ends, spending many of our school days learning at museums, parks, shows, and workshops. I can’t wait.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to test a flourless brownie recipe before I feed it to the family at the seder on Sunday night. And some Pesach cleaning wouldn’t go amiss, either, although there’s not much that has to be done: remember, dirt is not Chametz! And a rabbi friend of mine told me that if it’s smaller than a single Cheerio, it doesn’t count as Chametz either. Passover cleaning isn’t spring cleaning. Doesn’t that just lighten the load?