Camping it up · crafty · Kids · The COVID files

Day 500: Wait, what?

It has apparently been five hundred days since the first COVID shutdown began in Toronto. Whoa. That’s a long time.

I remember last June, chatting on the phone with a friend and commenting that since we figured that school would be a bit of a write-off this year, we were going to homeschool our kids. Her response was incredulous:

“You really think we’re still going to be dealing with this in September?”

Yup. We were. And we still are. Crazy, huh?


I packed a camp bag for E: she starts full-day camp tomorrow. It made me realize how much stuff we’re missing because we’re homeschooling. Things like a lunch bag, a backpack big enough for a two towels and said lunch bag, and a… mask lanyard? What the heck is a mask lanyard? I wondered.

A Google search later, I realized I had this lanyard thing under control. I went downstairs to the Makery and found a length of yellow grosgrain ribbon in one bin, then grabbed a few plastic snaps and set to work with the snap pliers. Three minutes later, I had a lanyard. Ah, the magic of the Makery.

Image description: A yellow and green striped ribbon with yellow snaps on each end.

My brother and his two kids are in town right now, so we’ve had a few sleepovers for the kids and their cousins. Today there were six kids running around my house and I have to say that my niece and nephew fit right in: she attached herself to one of the hammock chairs and announced, “I’m a chyrsalis!” in her adorable five-year-old voice, and he went down to the Makery and came back upstairs with a piece of upholstery foam and a plan to make his own squishy toy shaped like a Minecraft sword.

Smart, cute, and they know what the Makery is for. We must be related.

Camping it up · Kids

Day 499: They’re Baaack…

Three hours later than expected, the buses finally pulled into the parking lot.

The kids talked over each other all the way home, telling one story after another. It’s 10:25 and R and K don’t feel tired at all, so they’re sitting down here still talking about camp.

I’m ending here because I want to listen to more camp stories. I’ll be back tomorrow night.

DIY · Keepin' it real · Kids

Day 498: The Window Seat

I did it. It took way too many hours, but I did it.

Of course, the library is still a disaster zone, littered with bits of foam and batting; the floor is a safety hazard (as I learned when I stepped backwards to take a photo and impaled my heel on the pointy ends of plastic snap covers.) But it’s just me and Mr. December here tonight and tomorrow morning, so no innocent bystanders will be harmed before I clean it up tomorrow.


The three big kids come home from camp tomorrow. I’ve gotten used to the quiet; I hope I haven’t lost my ability to tune out the noise of four kids plus their friends.

Mr. December and I got in a date tonight. We walked out to an Italian restaurant nearby and, over Caprese salad and gnocchi, talked about our travels this fall. We also strategized about how to handle my inevitable seasonal depression in January and February: we could travel to someplace warm and sunny, Mr. December could take over more of the teaching time (I don’t see how, with a full-time job on top of homeschool, but it was gallant of him to offer,) or I could pre-plan a whole bunch of field trips that force me to get out of the house and allow the kids to learn from someone else for a change. In the end it doesn’t really matter which solution we choose—what really makes a difference is having a partner who’s also a teammate, ready to outwit and outplan my seasonal depression alongside me. I am so lucky.

diet recovery · DIY · family fun · Kids

Day 496: How she sees me.

E and I stopped by my parents’ place to take care of the pool in their absence. By “take care of the pool” I mean “dip the test strip, look at the reference chart, try to figure out which bottle of stuff I should be using to fix whatever’s wrong, and then dump in a few kilograms of whatever it is I think the pool needs.” It feels like I should be a bit more scientific about it, but my way is working so far.

(Although yesterday and three days ago I dumped in, like, twelve kilos of salt and today when we swam I was floating more easily than usual and a scrape on my arm was burning, so that might have been a bit much. Oops. It’s still not as salty as the ocean.)

We decided that before adding the Alkalinity Increaser that the pool apparently needed, we’d take a short swim. At first I figured only E would swim while I watched her, so I said, “Oh, don’t bother with your bathing suit. Just jump in naked. It’s only the two of us here.”

(Don’t worry, the pool is not in any way exposed such that anybody can see us.)

A few minutes later, though, I decided to dip my toes. The water was deliciously cool; I decided to join E for a while.

“You can skinny-dip too, you know,” E said.

“If someone’s kind of chunky, can they call it chunky dunking instead?” I mused aloud.

E huffed, “No, it’s still skinny dipping.”

“But I wanna go chunky dunking!” I protested.

“Eema,” she said with all the patience usually reserved for reasoning with a two-year-old, “You’re not that fat… for a grown-up.”

“Fine, call it whatever you want,” I said with my dress halfway over my head, “I’m coming in!”

It was fabulous.

I will pause here and say that yes, the fact that “you’re not that fat” made me feel good is problematic in itself. Fat is an adjective, like tall or short. That it affects my self-worth is unfortunate. I’m working on it. And for those of you reading this, don’t say “you’re not fat” to someone, unless you’re trying to reinforce the fact that fat is a terrible thing to be.

Anyhow, it was what I needed to hear after last night’s musings. If only I could always see myself the way my kids see me.


Before I go, I’ll leave you with this picture of me, a wrecking bar, and a pair of wire cutters. Anybody want to guess what I was doing today?

Image description: Me (woman with a ponytail and glasses) facing away from the camera, holding a pair of wire cutters in one hand and a wrecking bar that is wedged in between two pieces of trim in the other.
family fun · Keepin' it real · Kids · waxing philosophical

Day 491: It started out so well.

This morning I discovered a new beach online and decided to try it with E, who is turning out to be an excellent partner in beachy crime. I made the required reservations (because COVID) and even rented a tandem kayak for an extremely reasonable fee ($10 including tax for 30 minutes.) We drove out to Professor’s Lake, singing along with the Hamilton soundtrack the entire way.

It was unlike any of the beaches I’ve been to before: we entered through a building that housed bathrooms, a snack bar, and a boat rental desk, and came out to a tiny beach with three lifeguard stands and a roped-off swim area. It’s not a big lake (although probably similar in size to Kelso,) which meant calm, warmer-than-your-average-lake waters. The bottom was sandy all the way out and the water was chest-deep at the far limit of the “shallow end.”

E and I frolicked in the water for a while until it was time for our kayak rental; then I paddled us around the lake, sticking close to shore so I could see the backyards of the houses that back onto it. I had no idea that Brampton had subdivision houses with a lake in their backyards; most of them had some kind of watercraft and some even had small docks at the water’s edge.

(Note to self: I want a lake at the bottom of my backyard.)

On our way back to the boathouse we saw the lifeguards’ pontoon boat speeding towards us.

“I need you guys to go back to the boathouse right away, because it’s going to rain soon and also something else.” The lifeguard shouted to us.

Also something else? I thought as I paddled hard back to shore. This can’t be good.

It wasn’t until we got close to the dock that I heard the sirens and saw the flashing lights of an ambulance. We were directed to exit to the parking lot, unless we had things on the beach—which we did—in which case we were to pack up and then leave.

You might not know this about me, but I have strong feelings about what people should and shouldn’t be doing when there’s an emergency situation. As we were packing up and leaving I was telling E that when there are first responders coming towards you, you hop aside as quickly as possible because an extra couple of seconds might save a life; that you should follow their instructions first and ask questions much later, if at all; that we’re so lucky to live in a place where we have police and medics and firefighters who come to help as soon as they’re called.

In the parking lot I saw two women walking away from their car.

“Do you know,” I asked, “if they’re letting cars out of the parking lot? Or are we blocked?”

“They have to let us through,” one woman said in an exasperated tone. “They can’t keep us here.”

“Actually,” I whispered to Ellie as we walked away, “I’m pretty sure they can. And I’m certainly not going to interrupt them in the middle of a rescue so I can get out of the parking lot a few minutes sooner. We’ll just take our snacks and sit on that bench.”

Honestly, what are people thinking when they get upset about this kind of thing? They were planning to be at the beach longer anyhow, so they don’t have any other pressing engagements. What could possibly be more important than saving a life?

Which reminded me: I shared this thought with E and taught her the Hebrew term Pikuach Nefesh, which is the Jewish principle that you can (or must) transgress any law in the Torah if it is a matter of saving a life. She repeated the words Pikuach Nefesh a few more times, rolling it around her mouth.

After twenty minutes of sitting on the bench (I couldn’t stand how people were gawking through the fence at the scene unfolding on the beach) we took a walk down the path that circles the lake. E squealed in delight as we found a playground, and she started climbing while I added this park to the Playground Buddy app.

Our car was no longer blocked in when we finally returned to the parking lot; the firetrucks had all left and the ambulances were packing up their stuff and leaving. Only a dozen police cars remained, the officers all gathered in a tight circle on the beach—to debrief, I assumed.

Later I read that a man had drowned in the lake. In the face of that, more mundane issues seem so unimportant, don’t they? And yet life goes on at breakneck speed, I reflected upon seeing that my beach access fee had already been credited back to my VISA card.

On any given day there are tragedies great and small, personal triumphs, births, and mundane everyday transactions, all happening at the exact same time. I’ve tried to wrap my mind around that before; I’m still trying to.

Tonight I’m thinking of the lifeguards who handled today’s emergency with such professionalism, the first responders who were unable to save that life, and the family of the man who drowned.

Folks, please… learn to swim. Teach your children to swim.

And for heaven’s sake, do not complain about minor inconveniences when there’s a life on the line.

Camping it up · Keepin' it real · Kids · The COVID files

Day 489: Like Normal

My kids’ camp has passed the fourteen-day mark, and everyone at camp tested negative for COVID; now they can all put away their masks, sing together, hug their friends. For the first time in 489 days, everything feels normal (the old normal, not the “new” one everyone’s always talking about.) Lucky them.

Here at home things feel pretty normal too. My to-do list is long and getting longer by the day, it seems. I’ve not accomplished what I had hoped to in the past two weeks. It might be time to throw half my “to-do” list into a “to-don’t” list instead.

(Do you like that one? I misread my friend’s post on facebook as being about her “to-don’t” list and we’ve now decided to start using it as a phrase.)

Over the past six years, I’ve had friends look at my kids and say something like, “I don’t know how you do it with four!” My stock response is that actually, four kids are easier than one. And now that I’ve had an only child for two weeks straight, I can confirm it. Unless E has a playdate, she’s clamoring for my attention even when she knows that I’m trying to work. And really, I’d rather be giving her my attention than working on trip planning and curriculum planning and the five dozen little odd jobs around the house. Sadly, sometimes I do have to buckle down and work.

I’m thankful that E has her friend who lives on our block, whose parents are as cool with spontaneity as I am, and who is free all day, every day. They’ve had epic playdates lasting four, five, even six hours of continuous play and absolutely zero conflict. It’s beautiful watching them play (eavesdropping on their play, really); it may not be an entire mask-free summer camp, but it’s E’s small taste of life being a bit more normal.

bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · Kids

Day 486: Worst. Letter. Ever.

E and I had an awesome time at Wet N Wild today. After almost five hours I called it quits, but she would have stayed until closing if I’d let her. We stayed mostly on the smaller waterslides and in the kids’ playground area, which is just how I like it. I have no idea what I’ll do when all my kids are big enough for every ride; I’ll still want to be going down the kiddie slides. A daredevil I’m not (and that’s not Yoda, it’s Yiddish syntax.)

We arrived home to a letter in our mailbox, obviously from one of the big kids. They all joked about how their letters would be brief, but this one took the cake. One folded-up sheet of lined, looseleaf paper, on which was scrawled “Hi” in five-inch-high letters; on the back there was a very messy “N.” Please, child: as if I couldn’t tell it was from Mr. Do-only-the-bare-minimum.

Before we left for the waterpark I did about nine kilometres of biking as I ran some errands; one of which, you may recall, was picking up new fabric samples for the window seat. Which means that…

It’s time to play everyone’s favourite Sweet N Crunchy interactive game, “Pick My Fabric!”

For the record, and because it’s hard to tell in the photo, the brown and tan (next to the sunflower fabric) are both buttery-soft faux leather.

So… which one is it this time?


ADHD · crafty · family fun · Kids · Resorting to Violins

Day 485: Hyperfocus Hurts

Yesterday I had a block of time all to myself, all alone in the house. I took advantage of it to work on a personal music project of mine. ADHD hyperfocus kicked in and before I had realized it, I’d been playing and singing for over three hours.

I learned a few important things. First, the new laptop we got for the kids has an excellent built-in microphone, so I can just do all my recordings on that computer—no need to buy a mic. Second, I learned that a music degree isn’t a “get out of practicing free” card for the rest of your life. Five minutes at the piano made it very clear to me that I can’t just improvise a piano part and then record it in the same afternoon. And third, I learned that playing for three hours straight is not a great idea for my body, although it is for my soul.

Now, I’m not new at this; I know that playing the same instrument for three hours will cause soreness. That’s why I switched instruments a bunch of times. Different instruments, different muscles—right?

Apparently not. I mean, I guess three hours of playing the same instrument might cause more pain than I’m feeling right now, but switching instruments doesn’t seem to have eliminated the problem.

In a perfect world—okay, maybe just a non-hurting body—I’d channel my hyperfocus into my music for several days straight. In this imperfect world I have to give it a rest for a few days before I get back to it. It’s a good think I’m a dabbler with lots of different interests; I’ll just rotate through them while I wait for my hands to calm down.

Speaking of other interests, I’ve been thinking about quilting again—it’s been years since I made a quilt, probably since my niece was born almost six years ago. But each of my kids was promised a quilt when they moved into big-kid beds. I’m obviously several years behind on this commitment.

In the past I’ve gone so far as to have N pick his favourite fabrics and approve a design. I don’t remember which design it was, but thanks to my avoidance of putting things away properly I know exactly which pile of fabrics is his “yes” pile.

I want to start his quilt, but I can’t. I’m trying to impose some self-discipline here: I have a long list of things to do while the kids are at camp, and making N a quilt is definitely not on that list. It will have to wait.

So what am I planning to do this week? Well, I promised E a fun outing tomorrow afternoon. In the morning I have to return all those fabric samples (I’m really no further ahead and I’m heading over to a different store to find some more options,) buy some more gray spray paint (ran out mid-spray today,) and pick up a prepaid parcel box from Canada Post (R has run out of Rainbow Loom, hardly surprising since she’s probably supplying her entire cabin with it.) After that, fun! At least, I hope it is. One way or another, you’ll hear all about it tomorrow night.

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.

Camping it up · Keepin' it real · Kids · parenting · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 480: Monologuing

Today the kids’ overnight camp sent us an email with a link to view pictures of the last few days at camp. I clicked immediately, of course. Had you been inside my head at the time, you’d have heard the following.


Let’s start with July 9. Not my kid… not my kid… not my kid… oh, that’s my friend’s kid. He’s in N’s cabin. N must be somewhere in this set. Hmm… they’re playing basketball… his friend has the ball… where is N?

Oh, there he is. Of course. He’s standing on the bleachers—wearing fuzzy pajama pants and a fedora—chatting with another boy. Why am I not surprised?

Moving on…

That redheaded girl looks familiar. Oh! That’s R’s bestie. I bet R will be in a few pics from this batch.

I’d know that bathing suit anywhere. Nice to see that R is wearing her long-sleeved sun protection suit. Oh, and here’s one of her and her friend snuggled together in a beach towel… and here they are, learning how to play volleyball. Better them than me—I hate volleyball.

There’s K. The fuzzy purple sweater was a dead giveaway; it makes her look like she’s part Muppet, and the shaggy hair does nothing to combat that image. Oh, look—she’s making a boomerang in woodshop. They’d better not be teaching her how to use it.

Everyone’s dressed up and looking clean—must be Shabbat. Why is everyone but N sitting in their folding camp chair? Did his chair ever make it to his cabin after we dropped it off? Well, at least his tuxedo-printed t-shirt looks dressy.


While I was perusing the photos, I got a call from camp.

“Everything’s fine! I just wanted to tell you how K is doing.”

Apparently K has rated camp at a 7/10 because of COVID but was adamant that it could never score 10/10 because she’s not allowed to have her phone with her. Furthermore, she’s already identified the unequal treatment of campers based on gender (boys are allowed to walk around shirtless, while girls can’t wear crop tops.) Not that I was worried about her adjusting to camp, but it’s still reassuring to know that K is comfortable enough at camp to be herself… her injustice-detecting, opinionated, phone-loving self.

I wrote each of them a letter and packed it with their stationery, so K, N, and R will see my letter as soon as they open up their kit to write one to me. Still, I should probably write to them again soon.

Or I could just print and send all of my recent blog posts. They might like that better.


Mr. December and I got our second COVID shots today. If you don’t hear from me tomorrow, don’t worry—I hear the fever and chills rarely last longer than a day.