Day 880: Revolving Door of Kids

It’s hard to keep track of my kids these days. K is still at camp. N came home from camp and went to sleep over at his grandparents’ house. R came home; she and N switched places the next day. And then another switch, I think.

I’m not the only one who’s confused: two nights ago E suggested that we include R in our late-night snack. She went upstairs and flicked the attic light on and off (our signal to anyone in the attic that someone down here wants them) and we were both confused as to where R could be if she wasn’t up there. Not in this house, as it turns out. We’d both forgotten.

Yesterday N came home because he’d been invited to go out with some friends from camp today. This is huge: N has never made friends easily, and I’ve certainly never seen him go hang out with multiple friends at a time. I dropped him off just after noon today, and he came back at eight p.m., eyes bright with excitement when I asked how it was. I so hope this wasn’t a one-off.

(Note to self: think of something fun to do with N and his friends, and invite everyone out to do it.)

And now N and R have switched places again. R missed me, she says, but I think she missed the attic swing just as much. She’s spent more time on the swing than she has hugging me; I’ll let you draw the same conclusion I did.

Long story short: I’ve had only two children at home for the last three weeks, but barely ever the same two for more than a couple of days. K comes home on Thursday, then she and N leave for music camp on Sunday. By the time they come back, September will be just around the corner and with it, homeschooling all four kids. That’s going to be an adjustment.

Keepin' it real · Kids · well *I* think it's funny... · whine and cheese

Day 873: I Got A Trophy?

No, there’s no trophy. I’ve won no prize. In fact, I’ve lost… muscle mass.

Cartoon drawing of a gold trophy. The plaque on its base reads "Biggest Loser... of muscle."

That’s right, I’ve got atrophy. Not a trophy. (Kids, take note: proper spacing between words is important. So is proofreading.)

Today at physiotherapy I learned that traumatic knee injuries cause the brain to send fewer electrical signals to the quadriceps muscle (I kind of want to know why, but I need to go to sleep early tonight—so no rabbit holes for me,) and as a result, there’s muscle loss. It’s visible enough that I was slightly alarmed when my physio pointed it out.

A cursory Googling tells me that this kind of atrophy won’t be reversed by simply exercising the muscle. I’m guessing that’s why I spend half of my physio session with electrodes stuck to my leg, doing squat presses in time with intermittent electric shocks that make my quads contract.

And I thought my knee brace was loose because it had stretched somehow. Nope, my leg really is smaller.

In other news, the kids are big enough to do actual housework now—E took out the garbage, recycling, and compost; N vacuumed the floors (badly, though); R took care of the dishwasher. Of course, they also make 90% of the mess around here. I miss the clean and quiet of my house when I had just one child (while the others were at camp.) I missed the kids more, though, so I guess I’ll keep ’em.

community · Kids

Day 866: New Friends

E has found a new neighbourhood friend; so have I.

We met them at the community orchard on the weekend, where I was facilitating the kids’ tree-trunk painting (it repels bugs and prevents sun damage.) They had obviously heard about the program and came equipped with a bucket to hold their paint, just like the FaceBook post asked.

Because I needed to avoid walking on uneven ground, I asked E to please take our newest volunteers and explain the task to them. Off she went, explaining about the paint and the insects and which trees still needed doing.

An hour later, she and the little girl were running around and playing together, and clamouring for a play date. Turns out this family lives less than a five-minute walk from us. I invited them to come over and play in the backyard the next day.

Today our new friends came over again. The kids had a great time—lots of laughter, no arguments—and so did the parents. I really like this mom. The fact that they’re our neighbours is just the icing on the cake.

family fun · Kids · water you paddling?

Day 863: The Cottage

Three days without a post… that might be the longest hiatus I’ve taken since our stint in Galapagos last December! The wifi at the cottage was slow (at one point during a rainstorm it cut out entirely,) so I stowed my laptop for the duration of our time there.

It was fabulous. The kids had friends to play with (self-directed, imaginative play, mostly outdoors.) We had friends to talk to. I got to kayak a few times, including once out to Cookout Island (as opposed to a shorter paddle around the bay.) I took five kids on a swim from that same island to the next one over (maybe 400-500 metres each way.)

They’re a board gaming family like we are, so there were plenty of games including a nightly Scrabble game. There was also a giant crossword puzzle posted on the wall for anyone to work on (I might steal this idea.) The beds were comfy and the lake was warm. In short, a perfect getaway.

However, I learned that uneven ground makes my knee hurt—one unexpected change in terrain and I got sharp twinges up the sides of my knee. The first few times I stepped down from the dock I hurt myself; I eventually learned to step down onto my good leg. So I was sore… but it was worth it.

Camping it up · Kids · water you paddling?

Day 855: On Their High Horses

It’s been an exhausting week. K and E had horseback riding camp every afternoon, which meant almost two hours of driving every day. They enjoyed it so much that they’re already clamouring for more horseback riding, which means more driving for me.

At least I made the most of my time out there—I spent three afternoons out on the lake, kayaking and then swimming to cool off. I’m definitely feeling the muscles in my upper body. I’m also feeling my legs, and I’m really not sure why—they just suddenly became very sore around dinner time tonight. It looks like tomorrow will be a rest day.

It’s actually going to be a bit less than restful: we need to get K packed up for camp. I think we finally have everything she needs, but it has to be labeled and set aside, ready to go into the duffel bags that N will be bringing home on Sunday.

This morning we confirmed that R will stay at camp for two more weeks. I’ve gone shopping for snacks to send up for her. Kosher ramen packets were on sale, so I cleared the shelf of them (for R and K.) I also bought a box of granola bars, some Bissli (an Israeli salty snack food,) and some water-flavouring drops. To paraphrase Jaws, we’re going to need a bigger bag.

Camping it up · Kids · parenting

Day 854: Staying at Camp

We’ve responded to camp, telling them that R can stay for however much longer she wants.

(“Can she stay until October?” Mr. December joked. Not funny.)

This means that R and K will be at camp together (when K isn’t out on a canoe trip.) It also means that anything R needs for the rest of camp can go up in the bus with K on Monday. Looks like I’m going shopping for snacks—likely Ramen and granola bars (kosher, of course.)

I’ll have to reschedule R’s appointments with the optometrist, orthodontist, and dentist. No big deal. She’ll be missing a visit to our family friends’ cottage and a visit from my brother and his family. She’ll probably be unhappy about the latter, but I guess a five-day family visit can’t compare with an extra two (or more) weeks at camp—especially when my brother will be back again towards the end of the summer.

We’ve had only two kids for the last three weeks, and now we’re just trading N for K but keeping the numbers steady. Having just two kids is so easy! And for those of you with two children who are feeling overwhelmed, I have a brilliant idea: I’ll lend you two of mine for two weeks. I guarantee you’ll feel the difference when they finally leave!

Sigh… I miss R already.

Notes to self:

  1. I went on a 10-minute bike ride today. Was able to actually pedal with my left leg for a bit. Accidentally put myself into a higher gear and didn’t notice until I’d gone several hundred metres.
  2. No kayaking today—my arms and shoulders were sore from the past two days, so I took today off. Back on the water tomorrow, though.
  3. I remembered to order the Hebrew workbooks we’ll be using this school year. I was unable to buy them anywhere in Israel, so I’ve once again ordered them from Boston.

Homeschool · Keepin' it real · Kids · Worldschooling

Day 850: Here’s the Proof

I’ve been feeling kind of disappointed with our homeschooling this past year; even more so when I look at our last yearbook. Last year we did literature units, grammar, volunteer work, writing projects… and it seemed to me that this year we have very little to show for our school year.

But then I wrote the report cards, and now I feel far better.

Having to fill in comments about each subject area forced me to categorize everything the kids have done since January. All kinds of things floated back to me: history journals, cultural learning through travel, all the books the kids read of their own volition, discussions of comparative mythology, and an entire month of learning about Jewish history, culture, and religion. The incredible amount of nature and science learned in the desert, the museums we went to, the art they did for fun.

It’s amazing how simply writing it down makes you aware of things you’d forgotten, isn’t it?

What will our next school year bring? Yesterday I would have said a return to greater structure and more assignments from me; now I’m not so sure. It seems that the kids learned plenty without being forced—and I’ll bet they retained it, too.

bikes planes and automobiles · Kids · Teenagers · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 844: Teens and Raccoons

Nothing drives home the fact that you’ve got a teenager quite like this one:

There’s a teenager crashed on my couch and it’s not mine.

K’s friend fell asleep while watching a movie; when we woke her up for dinner, she opened her eyes, looked at K, and went right back to sleep. Just like the raccoon that made our bakfiets its home way back in 2012.

Screenshot of a facebook post. Text reads: "Look what we found in Sara's Bakefits (bike)! No amount of jostling could get it to budge." Photo is of a raccoon sleeping in the box of a cargo bike.
The raccoon lifted its head, looked at me, and went right back to sleep.

You know, this isn’t what the post was supposed to be about, but now I’m thinking about all the ways teenagers are like raccoons:

  • They’re pretty smelly. (Sorry, teens, but you know it’s true—especially when you’re still learning that your sweat stinks.)
  • People who don’t live with them think they’re adorable.
  • You really don’t want to get in a fight with one.
  • They’re territorial, and will snarl at you if not given enough space.
  • When they really want to do something, they’ll figure it out no matter what it takes.
  • Good luck getting them to budge if there’s something you want them to do, though.
  • They go pawing through your stuff looking for something to eat, then leave a mess behind when they’re done.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go leave a snack out for the sleeping creatures so they don’t make a mess of my kitchen.

family fun · Independence · Kids · what's cookin'

Day 843: To Market, to Market

(No pigs, fat or otherwise, were harmed or bought in the writing of this title.)

It was a beautiful summer day today; all I wanted was to be out on the water.

“Just give it one more week,” Mr. December cajoled me, “just until next weekend.”

Instead of the beach, we went to a nearby farmers’ market. It was small and manageable for me, in terms of walking, and we needed to buy fruits and vegetables anyhow. The vendors were friendly, the produce was beautiful, and there was even live music.

“If I had my druthers,” I told Mr. December, “I’d want to always buy my fruits and vegetables this way instead of at the supermarket.”

Wrist deep in a plate of jerk chicken, he looked up and asked, “Why? Not for environmental reasons?”

(We’ve had this conversation before: apparently small farms are worse for the environment than large ones—I presume there’s economy of scale.)

Of course not for environmental reasons, nor for cost savings. Shopping at a market just feels more… human, I guess is the word for it. You get to chat with the people producing the food you eat, you have to choose from seasonal produce rather than an international assortment—and I appreciate this not because I think importing out-of-season fruits is bad, but because being aware of (and eating) seasonal produce can make us feel more connected to our natural surroundings.

(I also won’t deny that in the event of a zombie apocalypse or other worldwide disturbance, I think it’s a good idea to maintain some capacity for local food production—just in case.)

A small farmers’ market is also an ideal place for kids to gain some confidence. E saw a cupcake she wanted, and asked me to buy it for her. I was sitting and my knee was sore, so I sent her to find out how much it cost; I watched as she spoke to the vendor, then came back to me to ask for four dollars. It’s a small thing, but buying her own cupcake is a start towards independence. And the reward was (according to E) delicious.

family fun · Kids · Unschooling

Day 842: A Family Rabbit Hole

Well, our internet and cellphone service is back up, but it’s still spotty and unreliable.

But it was good enough to watch a documentary that was recommended by a friend, called Bend or Break, about Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. It was more personal narrative than information, which was a bit disappointing, but Mr. December was ready and willing to google every question K had.

In the end, our conversation ranged from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome to genetic screening (and the difference between autosomal and sex-linked genetic disorders) to sickle-cell anemia and how it results from what was an adaptive gene that made people more or less immune to malaria.

Then, armed with information from the vast amount of well-researched historical fiction I’ve read, I explained to K and Mr. December about malaria, how it can be seen on a simple microscope, the disease process, and treatment. Halfway through my explanation K cut me off with a slightly strangled-sounding, “I think that’s all I need to know about that.” I wisely stopped before she started feeling faint.

I was pretty happy to observe that K remembers everything we’ve discussed before (this isn’t her first time hearing about sickle-cell anemia.) Now, if I could get her to remember that empty wrappers go in the garbage…