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

Day 840: The Kids’ Menu

I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking of dinnertime: a home-cooked meal is laid out on the table before us. Six places are set, the water has been poured, the kids have been called to the table. And then somebody says whines it:

“There’s nothing here for me to eat!”

It doesn’t matter that we’ve deconstructed dinner down to its plainest components: sauces are on the side, there’s always more-seasoned and less-seasoned meat, there’s always a bowl of rice or pasta or potatoes. One or more of my kids will eat absolutely nothing on the table.

Mr. December and I have gone over this so many times. The bottom line is that if the kids aren’t eating the food anyway, it doesn’t matter how healthy the meal I’m serving is. It’s not going to get into their bodies by osmosis. The point of eating dinner as a family is to sit together, eat together, and make conversation. Maybe I need to let go of what I think they should eat, and just serve what they will eat.

(See? I’ve been should-ing all over my kids again. That rarely ends well.)

With that in mind, I’ve developed the following menu:

Image of a fancy menu, text reads as below the image.

Individually-portioned applesauce cups
Freshly caught Goldfish pungent with all-unnatural cheese
Choice of raisins, cranberries, or scurvy

Homestyle Toast Flambé served with an assortment of gourmet spreads
Delicate shards of taco shells masquerading as chips
Tropical-fruit-flavoured Skittles

Assortment of cold cereals with or without fresh milk
Factory-baked bread with salted butter
Ontario’s finest cheapest ice cream

Our favourite frozen oven fries, delicately salted with your tears
Cigar rolls of deli-sliced turkey breast floating in ketchup
Jell-o snack cups garnished with Fruit You Won’t Eat

Challah liberally sprinkled with superfine Redpath sugar
Plate of local basswood honey with an optional side of gefilte fish
Egg noodles and Turmeric-scented mini croutons in a clear chicken broth

Whatever you want, served in whatever dish is still clean
Those three bites of freezer-burned leftover ice cream cake from your last birthday
Leftover challah

Get it your own damn self.

Homeschool · Independence · Kids

Day 839: Free Play

We spent five hours in the park today. Wednesday is the weekly homeschoolers’ meetup, which we try not to miss when we’re in town. E and K spent five hours hanging out with their friends outside, doing what I think kids should be doing—playing games, talking to each other, riding bikes, climbing trees. The parents, meanwhile, sat and talked. Everyone was happy.

It was like I used to tell my kids: “You’re a kid, and your job is to play with other kids. I’m a parent, and my job is to talk to other parents.” That philosophy doesn’t always work out in the average Toronto playground; there’s a lot of helicopter parenting, which makes it hard for kids to play together without adult intervention. But these homeschoolers are clearly my people: only infants and toddlers get closely supervised. From preschool age on up, the kids organize their own games, run around together, and look out for each other. It’s a beautiful thing. I am so glad I found this group.

For the record, E has gone back to her screen-watching ways. Yesterday’s event was still a heartening reminder that she can and will get bored of it eventually. After five hours of active outdoor play, she can hardly be blamed for wanting to sit and do nothing. In fact, I think I might do the same thing, possibly with some strawberries and vanilla ice cream.

crafty · DIY · Keepin' it real · Kids

Day 838: Unthinkable

Yesterday the unthinkable happened:

E got bored of screen time.

Go ahead, pick your jaw up off the floor. Then call the media. My kid got sick of watching videos!

Can you tell I’m excited?

She left the computer, came up to me, and said, “I’m bored.”

“Wonderful!” I cried. “Boredom is so good for you!”

“It is not… wait. Are you serious?”

“Of course! All the greatest thinkers get bored right before they make an amazing discovery! Your brain can’t come up with new ideas when you’re making it do stuff all the time!”

“Oh,” she said, and wandered off.

The next time I looked up, she was working on a Tinker Crate. With only a tiny bit of help from me, she built a spirograph machine, then started experimenting with the effects of changing the gear sizes and the position of the drawing arm.

E turning the wooden gear of her spirograph machine to create a drawing.

I honestly never thought the day would come when E would voluntarily turn off the screen and go find something else to do; now that day has come, and I have hope that someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, N and R might get bored of screen time too.

Camping it up · crafty · Jewy goodness · Keepin' it real · Kids

Day 836: This and That

The great thing about being several years behind on my photo books is that I get to relive some of the things I’ve forgotten since the pictures were taken. Tonight I’m working on K’s bat mitzvah book, only a year and a half after the fact.

I also had a visit from someone I haven’t seen in years, and who I’ve never really had the chance to sit down and chat with before. The weather was perfect; we sat on the porch and talked about anything and everything for three hours. I should put out random “who wants to come hang out with me” posts more often.

E is going off to a different day camp tomorrow—half-day bicycle camp—and then I’ve got my fracture clinic appointment in the afternoon. I hope they can actually tell me what I’ve done to my knee; right now it’s aching a bit and I still can’t put much weight on it, though I can touch the floor with it when I’m hobbling along on crutches.

E reminded me helpfully that I said I’d email N and R at camp today. I’d better go do that. Tune in tomorrow for the next installment of “What Have I Done to my Knee?”

DIY · Getting Organized · Kids

Day 833: Go on, Guess…

How many things do you think R forgot to take with her to camp?

Four: her water bottle, her pillow, her favourite stuffie, and her rain jacket.

It’s a good thing someone close to us (emotionally and geographically) was driving one of their kids up to camp today. Mr. December made a last-minute run with R’s favourite stuffed alpaca last night, wedging it into their mailbox for safekeeping.

“Do you think R even appreciates how we’ve gone out of our way to get her the stuff she forgot?” Mr. December grumbled as he got into bed last night.

“Not yet,” I answered sleepily. “But she will… when she’s got forgetful kids of her own.”

Time for a progress report, I think.

First, the knee: It still hurts (which it didn’t, you might recall, until the reinjury) but I’m able to put a little more weight on it when I’m using my crutches. Tonight I absentmindedly got up from the table my usual way (left leg first) and it felt WRONG. At least the knee didn’t buckle… but it’s definitely not ready to be self-supporting anytime soon.

Pic of my newly-organized command centre, with the supply drawer open to reveal the organized stuff within.

Next, the seated honey-do report: I have now decluttered the command centre, including the charging drawer (at least half of the cords in there weren’t plugged in—no wonder half of our chargers “didn’t work”,) my supply drawer, and the book return drawer. I wasn’t going to attack the upper part of the command centre, but I kept seeing “just one more” thing I could get rid of, and now the whole thing is organized.

I’ve also caught up on all the papers I’ve been shoving in a box since 2019. Did you know that the longer you go without filing your papers, the fewer you need to keep? It’s like magic!

Camping it up · DIY · Keepin' it real · Kids

Day 831: Mad Libs from Camp

The thing about getting mail from camp is that the letters are so predictable… and short.

“Dear Eema, I had to write this so I could get tuck. Bye. N.”

“Dear Eema and Abba, Camp is good. The food sucks. I’m getting eaten alive by mosquitos. Love, K.”

“Dear Eema, Please send more Rainbow Loom. Love, R. P.S. my allergies are bad.”

I’d like to enjoy the letters I get just a bit more this year. And I already know that N will not be writing me anything more than a single sentence, so I decided that I’d write letters for him to send. You know what they say, if you want something done “right”, do it yourself.

I didn’t totally let him off the hook: I wrote two letters in the form of Mad Libs: text with certain key words removed and replaced with a blank line and a label indicating the part of speech. The results are usually pretty funny, and my kids like doing Mad Libs, so my hope is that N will use these letters to engage with his cabin mates (he’ll call out the part of speech and they’ll give him a random word.) It should be fun to do, and I’m looking forward to having something amusing to read when I open the mail.

Just in case you’re in the same boat as me this summer, I’ve decided to share the letters here. Feel free to download them, print them, and give them to your kids. If you do, please consider eventually sharing the results in the comments.

bikes planes and automobiles · Camping it up · Fibro Flares · Kids

Day 822: Gone.

E’s Kobo is dead. It can’t charge at all and a hard reset proved impossible. Fortunately, it’s still under warranty. I’ll send it back and Kobo will send us a new one. In the meantime, though, this puts a serious crimp in E’s routine.

Her routine is about to change anyhow: day camp starts tomorrow. I had prepared by buying some packaged (red: labelled nut-free) snacks for her to pack in her lunch. Today we prepared her backpack and went to pack the nonperishable part of her lunch, only to discover all of the packaging and none of the snacks.

Now, it’s not like they gorged themselves. Between my four kids and the three friends they had over yesterday, it’s easy to see how there’s nothing left. But I needed it for tomorrow, and they ate it all. Maybe it’s my fault for not wrapping it in yellow police tape that reads: SNACK LINE. DO NOT CROSS.

The day camp is an easy 12-minute bike ride, slightly downhill along the trail—almost no streets at all. It’s a more challenging ride home, of course, because what goes down must come up, if you’re taking the same route to and fro. I’ll ride her there in the morning; if I need to get her by car in the afternoon I will, but maybe Mr. December or K will decide they feel like a nice easy bike ride. I hope they do.

Going to sleep now. I felt better today, though still not 100%, but I can’t say that my brain has caught up to my body yet. Maybe another 10-hour stretch will do it.

education · gardening · Kids · parenting · waxing philosophical

Day 816: Weeds or Wildflowers?

Yesterday morning we came home to a jungle.

K mowed the lawn right before we left home for our trip. We knew the grass would get long, but we were shocked to see the waist- and chest-high plants that were dominating the front yard.

“It rained a lot,” my mum explained. She, my dad, and my in-laws are all fans of keeping the front yard neat and tidy. None of them appreciated Mr. December’s quip that this was our way of making homes in our neighbourhood more affordable.

Fearing that the neighbours would call bylaw enforcement on us, I biked out to Canadian Tire yesterday to get a new battery for our lawn mower (the old battery died before we left, and that last mowing was done with a lawnmower borrowed from the couple across the street.) This morning I told K it was time to mow; but first, I went out to pick some flowers I didn’t know we had. Now I have four flower arrangements brightening up my windowsill.

Four ceramic cups filled with wildflowers

As I snipped blossoms off their stalks, I reflected on how we wouldn’t have seen these flowers at all if we’d mowed our lawn like we’re “supposed to.” It occurred to me that these flowers are a bit like some kids:

  • They’re obviously not like the grass around them; they stand out from the crowd and don’t conform to our expectation of what a front lawn should look like.
  • When treated the same way as the surrounding lawn, they end up looking stunted and broken.
  • If we give them time to grow in their own way (instead of insisting they behave like grass) they thrive, flourish, and flower.

It’s so hard, when your child isn’t neurotypical, not to wish they could just be “normal.” Society is bent on making them fit in and behave like everyone else; but often these expectations only leave neurodiverse kids feeling like there’s something wrong with them that they need to fix. The very behaviours that make up part of who they are have been deemed unacceptable and unwanted.

But something magical happens if we stand back and observe. If we stop trying to make kids behave and learn and play like everyone else, if we give them time, our children astonish us. If we let them grow their way, they thrive. They put out flowers. They’re beautiful. They’re not weeds anymore—they never were, really—they’re wildflowers.

A weed can’t become a blade of grass no matter how often we mow it. A neurodiverse child can’t become neurotypical no matter what therapy or consequences we apply. But if we let them grow, unfettered, they will flower; and the world will be more beautiful for it.

Kids · Travelogue

Day 810: Begging your Pardon…

It’s been a long day. We leave in three days and the kids are trying to spend every possible minute in the awesome playground (seriously, they’re ruined for the playgrounds back home now.) We didn’t leave the park until quarter to ten and I’m just really tired. I want to sleep.

I’m telling you this so that you don’t worry because I didn’t post. We’re all fine, just tired, and I’ll be posting long rambling stories again soon.

family fun · Kids · Travelogue

Day 804: Providence? or Dumb Luck?

I’m not saying I believe in divine providence, but sometimes events line up so perfectly that I have to wonder.

We got out of the house nice and early on Monday and arrived at the car rental place right around nine, when they opened.

“You don’t, by any chance, know how to drive a manual transmission?”

“Not even a little. Our reservation was for an automatic.” I told the guy behind the desk.

“Yes, of course. Okay. Just a minute.” He turned away, picked up the phone, and asked someone to bring a van with automatic transmission from one of their other locations. Meanwhile, I sent the kids to the gas station next door to buy snacks for the trip. They came back; I was still at the counter. I sent them to use the bathroom.

“Can I please see your passport, license, and your tourist visa?” the clerk asked.

“Here, here, and… well, here are four tourist visas for the four kids… mine isn’t in here. DAMN!” I called Mr. December over and we searched all our pockets. Our visas were MIA.

“Since you don’t have them, I have to include the 17% VAT.” He told me. “But if you find them you can email me a picture and I’ll reverse that charge. OK?

I sighed, nodded, and led the kids and Mr. December over to the pick-up area. They brought the car, we got in, the employee started to show us important things like the code to unlock the engine, the “battery charging problem” light came on…

Bad battery. Go figure.

He was very sorry, but he’d have to drive us over to a different location to pick up another car. By this point it was 10:15 a.m. and the kids had settled into some couches in the parking garage that were arranged to look like a living room (if your living room had concrete floors and walls.) We got into the van and… the car wouldn’t start. Back to the garage-cum-living-room to wait for yet another van. Another 20 minute delay.

By the time we had gone to the second location (in Jerusalem traffic, which is utter gridlock) and picked up an actual working van with automatic transmission it was 11:30—two hours later than we’d planned to get on the road. I hoped we’d still get to Mitzpe Ramon in time to visit the alpaca farm that afternoon.

After an easy drive through the desert (enjoying all the “beware of camels” signs along the way) we pulled up at the gate of the alpaca farm. The gate was closed. It looked deserted. Mr. December got out of the car and walked over to the gate, trying to see if someone was there.

Just then a small car pulled up next to us. The driver lowered her window and said, “This is my place. We’re closed today, but we’ll be open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.”

“Noooo!” I said, and then explained (in Hebrew): “We drove down from Jerusalem just to visit the alpacas. My daughter absolutely loves them. We’re leaving on Wednesday!”

“One minute,” she said, and made a quick phone call. “Okay, Shay is opening the gate for us. Go in, park in front of the building, and she’ll be in there.”

Shay was a very sweet young woman who told us everything about the farm and the alpacas, then sent us out into the farm with bags of alpaca treats.

They saw us coming. The alpacas all crowded towards the fence. We fed them, trying to spread the treats around a bit. They whined at us when they felt ignored.

The whole time, R was crooning to the alpacas: “Oh, you’re so cute! I love you! Wanna come home with me?… not you, you’re a bully… where’s the little black one? Oh, there you are! I love you so much! … ooh, you’re such a gentleman! So polite! Here, have another treat…”

Apparently the little black alpaca loved her right back, because he managed to climb through the fence around his pen.

“Shay?” I called. “Are these guys supposed to be wandering free like this?”

Apparently they were. A second black alpaca joined the first. The kids were thrilled.

Sadly for R, we couldn’t take any alpacas with us—but the kids did buy themselves some Alpaca-wool hats that were super cute.

When I paid for our entry fees, some popsicles, and the hats, Shay said, “You guys got really lucky. Usually if people want to come on a day we’re not open to the public, they have to pay 750 shekels for a private group tour. You got to come in for regular price and you had the place to yourselves. So lucky!”

I don’t believe in an interventionist God, but I couldn’t help but marvel at how it all worked out that day: multiple problems with the car rental delayed us by two hours. We arrived at the alpaca farm two hours later than we’d planned, which happened to be exactly when the owner was driving back into the farm. If she hadn’t been there, we probably would have gone away with some very disappointed children. But we were late, the owner was there, and the afternoon was a dream come true for R.