crafty · DIY · Fibro Flares · lists

Day 414: Don’t overdo it.

I haven’t said anything, because I didn’t want to jinx it, but my fibro flare seems to have ended last Monday or so. I’m trying not to overdo things lest I throw myself into a relapse. As you might imagine, it’s not easy. There are things I want to do… and worse, things I have to do.

It’s almost summer, which means it’s the right time to be thinking about the landscaping improvements we wanted to make. Unfortunately the landscaper we had hired seems to have dropped off the face of the earth (I really hope he’s ok; we are in the middle of a pandemic, after all.) I still want to put up a shed so I can move my big saws in there and have them set up to use at a moment’s notice. We also need a sturdier swingset: ours is twelve years old and everytime K swings on it (for several hours every day) it looks like it’s going to tip right over.

Summer also means that the sun comes up really early and shines straight at my bedroom window. The full-length blackout curtains I made don’t manage to block out all the light, so something needs to be done. I think I’ll try a simple valence to see if it works well. This needs to be my top priority, because it’s waking both Mr. December and me every morning and we need more sleep.

Speaking of windows, I need to put some kind of window treatment on the library windows. They face full west, as Jane Austen might have said, making the library very hot in the afternoons. I’m hoping I can find something ready-made that works in the space.

And then there are all the little things: figuring out how to replace our HEPA filter; installing the shelves that I bought for N’s and E’s rooms; painting the porch wall; getting the kids ready for camp (that’s not actually a little thing, there’s a lot of packing to be done); and the small matter of, you know, staying on top of their homeschool progress.

Just writing this list has me all tired out. I think I’ll take tomorrow off—it’s Mothers’ Day anyhow—and let the kids do everything, including my blog post. I can’t wait to see what they think of.

education · family fun · Homeschool · Kids · lists

Day 361: Don’t tell them, OK?

This is how we’ve spent our last couple of evenings:

  • Puzzles and brain teasers. I ordered an escape-room-type game from Finders Seekers. We cracked it open to find ten different puzzles, from algebra to ciphers to logic. The kids loved it. So did I, but Mr. December kept urging me to step back and let the kids solve the puzzles.
  • Reading about biology. Last night I sat down on the couch to look through It’s Not the Stork before reading it to the kids. The cartoon characters got E’s attention, and soon I had three eager children leaning over me, hanging on every word I read about anatomy and reproduction. Afterward N peppered me with questions all the way up to bed.
  • Watching documentaries. This was the only thing that required some… firmness… to get the kids to join. We’re watching What Darwin Never Knew. Once we started watching the kids were really into it.
  • Playing games. Tonight we tried a new game called Idiom Addict. You have to guess the English idiom from a phrase made up of its synonyms. Like, “You are howling vertically beneath the incorrect evergreen” would be “You’re barking up the wrong tree.” Word games are totally my thing; tonight I was gratified to learn that they appeal to N and K as well. The amount of new vocabulary they heard tonight was huge.

So despite my kids’ infuriating habit of watching the clock every afternoon waiting for “school time” to end, they’ve just spent two evenings learning math and logic, health, science, and English. And that was in addition to the work they did during “school.” I love that the line between “school” and “home life” keeps getting blurrier; the more muddled the distinction, the more time the kids actually spend learning (and the less time they spend eyeing us suspiciously and asking, “Wait a minute, does this count as school?”). Just… please, don’t tell them they’ve been learning outside of school hours. OK?

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

Day 341: How is it Wednesday Already?

(Although R, standing behind me and reading over my shoulder, wants to know how it’s not Thursday yet. Obviously we experience time very differently.)

I feel like the week totally got away from me. I was chatting with Mum tonight about how I wanted to send my brother a package for Purim tomorrow “…so even if it takes two days it’ll get there by Friday… wait, what? Tomorrow is Thursday?”

Yesterday and today my lesson plans went mostly unappreciated, although the let’s-find-countries-on-the-world-map exercise was sorely needed. I’d say something like, “Korea. Anybody know where it is? … I guess not. It’s a little peninsula off the south-east corner of China.”

“Where’s China?” said one kid who shall remain nameless.

“Really? Where’s China?” I blinked a few times and schooled my features. “Does anybody know what continent China is on?”

Silence.

I know that my kids weren’t the most attentive at school, but shouldn’t they know where China is by the time fifth grade rolls around? Do schools not teach geography anymore?

No matter, we’ll cover it eventually.


Purim starts tomorrow night, so I’m working on mishloach manot (although we don’t deliver them until Friday.) I’m also trying to figure out how to make Friday feel fun and festive for the kids. Here are all my brainstorms so far:

  • Gameschooling day
  • Watch funny history videos
  • Mad Libs (they’re fun, and they get to practice parts of speech!)
  • Torah Mad Libs. (Although I don’t see how it could get much weirder than some of the stuff from the middle of Vayikra (Leviticus.)
  • Giant bowling: the kids have to hurl an exercise ball down the length of the attic and knock over life-size silhouettes of the six of us.
  • Dance party
  • More charades. They did beg for more at last week’s party, didn’t they?
  • Karaoke again. It never gets old.
  • Drive around delivering mishloach manot while blasting music with funny lyrics.
  • “Just Like Mom,” Purim edition: each kid has to make a few hamentaschen with stuff we have in the house, then Mr. December and I taste them and guess who made what.

(As an aside, I don’t even really like hamentaschen that much. But E says we must make at least a few, so I guess we will.)

That’s all I’ve got so far. Maybe I’ll give the list to K and let her run with it. She loves making things happen (although planning is another story.)


Oh yes, and an update on my dress: I’ve decided to keep it. I’ll take it in only slightly, after which I’ll put it on and strut around the house with my hands in the pockets for the next several weeks.

Fibro Flares · Homeschool · Independence · Keepin' it real · lists · mental health

Day 294: My day in Google searches

Lenovo usb-c monitor only works intermittently
It works beautifully, except when it doesn’t—which is every few days. Apparently it’s a common problem, although nobody mentioned it in the product reviews I read before I bought the darned thing.

“Morons of Peggy’s Cove”
We just learned about Peggy’s Cove, NS in geography. We were discussing the dangers of walking on the black rocks when I mentioned a Twitter account dedicated to shaming people who ignore the warnings. Naturally, the kids wanted to see it.

Unicorn Colouring Sheet
E regularly asks me to print colouring pages for her. The subject changes every so often: it used to be Paw Patrol, then Peppa Pig. Today it’s unicorns. E really is getting quite good at colouring inside the lines.

ADHD meds in non-pill form?
All I’m going to say here is, if ADHD meds are so commonly prescribed to kids, why has nobody come up with a liquid formulation that doesn’t taste absolutely awful? If Tylenol can do it, why can’t Concerta?

Teach beginning guitar
I’m cracking down this term and making sure that all of the kids are learning musical instruments. I gave R a free choice (of any instrument we own) and she opted for guitar. I can play guitar, but it doesn’t naturally follow that I know how best to teach it. Google to the rescue!

Good winter hikes near Toronto
I need to get all of us out of the house more often, and it seems the only way to ensure everyone’s participation is by taking them for a long(ish) drive to a hiking trail. If we try for a hike close to home (in the neighbourhood) the kids who don’t want to go will just turn around and walk home by themselves.

Seasonal affective disorder irritability
This would explain why I completely lost it and shouted at the kids several times today. It’s rough.

COVID numbers Ontario
We’re on week 3 of a “lockdown” and numbers are still rising. What gives?

COVID numbers Barbados
This was just wishful thinking. Mr. December thinks it would be fine to travel. I don’t. Did I mention the lockdown?

Is this a coup?
My cousin (who lives in Washington, DC) posted to reassure everyone that he and his family are safe, which led me to ask why they wouldn’t be, which led me to Google. Again. The USA is still a flaming dumpster fire. Maybe we should unplug them, wait ten seconds, and plug them back in?

better homes than yours · DIY · family fun · Kids · lists · love and marriage · whine and cheese

Day 282: At least the drapes got done.

I had three priority items on my list for today:

  • Finish hemming the master bedroom curtains
  • Respond to the landscape designer about her proposal
  • Declutter and organize the front hall junk drawer

The three younger kids were enjoying a day at my parents’ house, so I assumed I’d have time to do all three things. I assumed wrong.

I started at 9:30 this morning. At 5:30 I was still ironing the side hems of one panel with fusible tape. I was ironing with a straightening iron (the kind for hair,) which had the advantage of not needing to take the curtains down. The drapes are huge and lined with heavy blackout fabric, so they’re a beast to wrestle. The less often I have to take them down, the better.

Image Description: image 1 shows the hem of a curtain being ironed with a Conair “shiny straight” iron.
Image 2 has two walls with floor-length striped drapes (in soft blues and greens), a hammock in the corner, and a bed in the foreground.

But the fact remains that I worked all day long and only achieved one goal (and only partially, at that, because two of the panels still need their sides hemmed.) Then K and I joined the other three kids (and my parents) for shabbat dinner. Some of us were not on our best behaviour tonight—I’ll leave it at that—and I left feeling frustrated. Discovering that the sliding doors on our van were frozen shut was just the icing on the cake.

And now I’m sitting here, fuming, because Mr. December is roughhousing with the kids instead of tucking them into their beds. They’re shrieking—howling with laughter—yelling—and all I want to do is scream at them to go the cluck to sleep. What part of “please put these kids to bed” was at all ambiguous?

“Soon enough they won’t want to play these games with me,” Mr. December explains, “already the game involves spending ten minutes coming up with names, then developing rules, then yelling at each other because the rules don’t work. And they wouldn’t let me use the name I wanted to use—Moonlight Starfire. We compromised on Starfire, but I had to be the bad guy, which meant being bitten a lot. Then back to being a chicken hatching from an egg, questions about the multiverse and then tucking in a cannibal who thought I was a banana. So I said I’m going to make like a banana…and split. They had never heard that line before so it was actually funny. “

He’s hard to argue with when he’s that hilarious. Not that I laughed, but it was too good a story to earn any sort of rebuke from me.

You know the adrenaline rush you get when you’re angry or upset? I’ve got that right now. My brain has decided to stop being angry, but my body hasn’t yet followed suit. I’m going to go curl up with the furry blanket Mr. December got me and read something trashy. And if that doesn’t help and I can’t sleep, I can go organize the junk drawer.

(And Merry Christmas to all my readers who celebrate. Enjoy this card that my kids and I made for a friend.)

Image description: a side-folding card, red, with a Christmas tree made out of sequins glued to it. Small adhesive jewels decorate the tree and there’s a glittery star on top. Snowflake cutouts adorn the edges. The card says “Merry Christmas!!!” in a child’s cursive writing.
family fun · Homeschool · Jewy goodness · lists · The COVID files

Day 270: Homeschool “light”

“Are you going to give your kids a break over the holidays?”

I’ve been getting that question a lot since December started. The answer is, “I’m not sure.”

I’m leaning towards giving them a week’s vacation, but no more than that, for a few reasons:

  1. They’re doing maybe five hours of school most days. They’re not overworked or exhausted by any means.
  2. If they did have a vacation, they’d still be hanging around at home because COVID. They might as well work straight through so that when COVID restrictions lift, we can go out and actually do stuff.
  3. Our days work so much better with the structure we’ve created for our homeschool days.

On the other hand, I’m sure they’d appreciate a more relaxed couple of weeks. That’s why I’ve decided we’ll be doing “homeschool light”, in honour of Chanukah. Here’s the lesson plan:

Language Arts
The kids haven’t finished their writing project yet, so they’ll be working on the layout and final editing for that. The rest of our Language Arts time will be spent playing Scrabble, Bananagrams, and Dixit.

Literature
I’ll be introducing the kids to some of the great classics this week… in movie form. We’ll start with A Muppet Christmas Carol (it’s faithful to the storyline and it’s got Muppets!) and then follow with Gulliver’s Travels.

Social Studies
We’ll cover geography by playing Ticket to Ride, the board game where you’re in a race to build train tracks all over Europe. Maybe if the kids like it I’ll try to print off the fan-generated Canada version. For current events we’ll play Pandemic, working as a team to discover vaccines before the viruses take over. Then, for history, we’ll play Agricola to learn more about how peasant farmers in sixteenth-century Europe lived (hint: you really have to plan ahead if you want to be able to feed your family come harvest time!)

Science
Somewhere on my hard drive there’s a document called “Donut Science.” Given that doughnuts are the official food of Chanukah, it’s probably time to print that one out and read it with the kids.

Health Class
This one’s easy. Early bedtime for everyone!

This is a pretty low-prep kind of school week, but I feel like I should do a dry run for health class. G’night!

(and Happy Chanukah!)

family fun · Keepin' it real · Kids · lists · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 170: Two More Sleeps

I’m not sure, but I might be drowning in lists.

There’s the meal plan and grocery list, with which I sat down and ordered all the non-perishables and a week’s worth of the perishables we’ll need. I’m baffled by the fact that the website didn’t have baskets of Ontario peaches (only the most delectable in-season fruit that exists.) I may have to just dash into a Sobey’s to get some.

I’ve got separate lists of things we’ll need for the High Holidays; materials for experiments and activities; books of experiments and activities; books for reading; board games; and art supplies.

Then there’s the clothing list, which I printed out six times to be used as a checklist by each member of the family. N seems to think that instead of a checklist, it’s a “scratch it out with bold pencil strokes so you can’t see what it said in the first place” list.

I repacked our first aid kit and confirmed that we have everything on our first aid inventory list, as well as the list of medications we take along. I’m practically a walking pharmacy (and is it weird that in addition to a thermometer, I’m taking a pulse oximeter, a peak flow meter, and a stethescope? For those of you just joining us here, I’m not a physician or a nurse, just a mom with an MD from Google University.)

I’m constantly checking in on my lists on Trello to make sure that I haven’t missed any important to-do items. Still firmly in the “not even started yet” column are: respond to the plans the landscaper sent us, test the new alarm system, choose our day trips, and make sure everyone has the necessary clothes and shoes. (Maybe I should have taken care of that last one before our last day at home.)

And then there’s my favourite: the list of lists and boxes. This is the checklist we run through before we get into the car to leave. First we check that all the other checklists are complete. Then we check off each crate, bin, box, or case that we’ve packed into the car. I love the list of lists for a couple of reasons: first, it’s the end of lists for the trip, and second, it’s the list that makes me feel uber-organized, super-prepared, and very, very smug.

That smugness will last right up until I realize that there was no checklist of children who should be in the car. I’ll do a panicked head count and then a roll call, and double-check with Mr. December that we only have four children and there isn’t a fifth back at the house about to enact Home Alone.

And then… vacation. I can’t wait. Just two more sleeps.

el cheapo · family fun · lists

Day 168: Stacking & Packing

I have a thing for packing. I don’t know if it was all my Tetris playing as a child and teenager, but I’m one of those people who gets twitchy watching other people pack or load things. If someone else has loaded the dishwasher, I’ll reload it because my way just fits so many more dishes. When we go on road trips, I pack the car. I have this map in my head of what fits best where, and since it’s painful to watch Mr. December do it his way (which is to say, lots of dead space), I do it myself.

Funny story about that: Mum came over the morning we left for our road trip last summer. She watched me carrying, lifting, and stacking everything and asked, “Why isn’t Mr. December doing this? Or at least helping?” I’m sure she thought that he was being lazy and I was picking up the slack.

“Because he can’t do it as well as I can,” I explained. “I’m really good at this.”

We’re going to ignore the signs of the perfectionism that probably exacerbates my exhaustion, okay? The point is I like packing, and I take pride in using my (clearly superior) spatial skills to pack as efficiently as possible. And because I take pride in it, I’m going to share with you my secret packing weapon:

Plastic crates I got for free from No Frills. Oh, and some stackable containers that I actually had to buy.

I hate trying to get luggage to stack. It’s always just slightly too rounded, or the sizes are a little too irregular, for me to stack them any higher than two — and the top layer usually slides around a lot. And then there’s the lack of visibility: if you can’t see what’s in them, you might end up having to open every bag to find the one thing you’re looking for.

With crates and bins (but especially with crates), they’re designed to stack on each other; the crates from the grocery store are designed to stay locked together in a moving truck. When you’re packing food, clothing, and recreational stuff for six people, you really have to use all the vertical space you can get, which is where the beauty of my crates and bins really lies.

Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  1. A stack of bins with flip-lids (so they can’t get lost!): These bins are packed with things for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, art supplies, books, outdoor activity equipment, and board games. They’ll stack nicely in one column in the van and in the cottage, which will be a real space-saver.
  2. My blue grocery bins. I’m using these for canned goods, because they’re sturdy and they nest inside each other. I clearly can’t fill these bins to the top with cans if I want to be able to carry them, but I can pack a single row of cans in one bin, then put the next bin right on top of the cans, and so on. It’s a different type of stack, I guess. When we get to the cottage I’ll unpack and then be able to nest them until they’re needed.
  3. My black plastic crates. Many years ago I plucked these from the “free boxes” area at No Frills; I think they held bags of peas or something. On this trip they’re holding our life jackets, beach towels, board games, and probably some of our clothes — assigning each person one crate (and one crate only!) seems like a fair way to avoid overpacking.
  4. Milk crates. Yes, I know what they say on the sides: “Illegal use prohibited” (Thanks, I had no idea what “illegal” meant!) or “For use by authorized owner only.” It’s not like I pinched these from a pile in the supermarket; they both came with our house and they look to be maybe forty years old. Someone else stole them long before my time. It’s my gain, because they’re sturdy, they stack solidly, and they’re just about the right size to hold all our rain gear.

I have a spreadsheet for packing (of course I do: Mr. December has rubbed off on me) that I’m slowly working my way through. At this point I think it’s just clothes and food that still need to be done, and I’ll have the pleasure of walking past my perfectly packed provisions while I pack some more.

See? Aren’t they beautiful? And organized? Isn’t it soothing just looking at them?

*crickets*

I guess some people will never know this joy… sigh…

blogging · crafty · lists · parenting · Renovation · waxing philosophical

Day 93: What’s on your photo roll?

I think you can tell a lot about a person by their photo roll. Take my dad, for instance: his photo roll is mostly plants and wildlife, with occasional spurts of family snapshots. You can tell he’s a green-thumbed family man who lives near the ravine.

My photo roll says a lot about me, too. Here are some of the most common types of photos I take with my phone:

Rashes and injured limbs

Guess which one hurts. Aw, go on, guess

I’d say about 20% of my photos these days are of medical problems. Skin rash? Let’s take a picture (maybe even next to a ruler or measuring tape so we know if it’s getting bigger.) You foot hurts? Let’s photograph both feet to see if one looks swollen.

You may think this is a direct result of the shift to online doctor’s appointments; it’s not. I have rash pictures dating back to 2014. I’ll admit it can be jarring when one scrolls through my photo roll, but these pictures have proven themselves useful over and over again.

One hundred consecutive kid selfies

These happen when my children get a hold of my phone. Before I set it down, the last picture on my photo roll is something normal (okay, given the first item maybe not normal normal, but normal for me.) When I pick it up again, there are a hundred pics in a row that look something like this:

“Hello? Is this thing on?”

Perfect parenting moments

These are photos of times that everything went right. Scratch that: these are times when something went right, and I had to document it for posterity. Things like beautiful birthday parties, the bigger kids helping the little ones, or idyllic photos of my carefree children playing out in nature, barefoot. These are the photographic evidence I’ll need to remind myself that I actually did a pretty good job of this parenting thing.

Child labour

I really just can’t get enough of pictures of my kids doing real, valuable work in the house. Cooking, cleaning, laundry… I have dozens of those.

Endless renovation shots

While we were building our house, Mr. December used my camera to document the process. We have hundreds of photos of everything from the fully-gutted shell of our house to the exact position and placement of the wires, before the drywall was installed. It’s a lot to scroll through, but those photos have come in handy on many occasions.

Pretty food

Remember the days before digital photography, when you had to wait for the film to be developed and then you had to go knock on everyone’s door to show them what you made for dinner? Yeah, me neither. But I’ve often fallen into the trap of photographing food I’ve made — especially adorable things like the bento lunches I made for K when I was younger and less jaded.

Stuff I make

I try to photograph everything I make with my own hands, from quilts to bookcases. Most of these photos don’t really go anywhere except this blog, but there was a period many years ago when I was selling stuff I had sewn. My photo roll from that time is full of pics taken for my now-defunct Etsy store.

And a bunch of other stuff…

I have photos of my little blue Yaris after it got rear-ended on the 401; stuff I was selling on Craigslist; “before” pics of me in workout gear (note to self: I looked better in the “before”. Maybe just be happy with where we are right now, hmm?); and, of course, normal everyday snapshots.

So… what’s on your photo roll?

blogging · education · fame and shame · family fun · Kids · lists · parenting

Day 77: Ten things I learned today (In no particular order)

  1. Some of my kids really don’t know how to print. Today we started the new writing workbooks I ordered. I thought the kids would breeze through the first ten or so pages, because they were that simple. Instead I spent forty-five minutes saying things like, “Did you know that lowercase g is supposed to dip down below the line?” and “Lowercase J has a dot above it, not a line at the top.” I had to go and find them a page with examples of the printed lowercase alphabet so they could copy it. I’m not sure who should be more embarrassed about this — the schools, for not having cared to demand good handwriting, or me, for not detecting this gap in their education before.
  2. Yoga on a trampoline feels really good. It’s even better than having a nice, cushy mat. E and I went out to the trampoline for a stretch. The downward dog was especially good – the slight bounce really amplified the stretch.
  3. I don’t know how to talk to my kids about racism. At least, that’s what I’m understanding after having read more than twenty articles about how to be anti-racist as a white (or in my case, white-passing) person right now. I don’t know what to tell my daughter about how to be an ally to her biracial friend. All I know is that I don’t know. Is that enough?
  4. Concussion isn’t any easier the second time around. I’d have thought that knowing what was happening would make it more tolerable the second time around. That was certainly the case for me during childbirth. I’m not handling this concussion any better than I did the first. In fact, I find myself thinking, “Didn’t I do this already? Haven’t I already gleaned the life lessons that are to be had here?”
  5. Schools don’t teach place value all at once. We had a moment today when R was having significant difficulty with her math work. It seems she didn’t know how to read numbers like 632,000 because (she says) nobody ever explained to her that thousands have ones, tens, and hundreds columns, too. “We just learned ones, tens, hundreds, and that’s it,” R explained. Really, how hard is it to explain six or nine place value names instead of just the three?
  6. My kids take to screen time bans very calmly now. Last night I asked three kids to help me unload the dishwasher and set the table. Their answer? “Nah.” Then they went outside to play. I didn’t ask again, but they had no screen time (except for school stuff) all day today. I didn’t hear a single complaint about it. Moreover, they did a great job setting and clearing the table and starting the dishwasher.
  7. Homeschooling gives our family so much time. Sure, I’m moving around between all the kids for five hours a day, but that means that from 2:00 p.m. to bedtime, we can do whatever we feel like. It’s a far cry from only having my kids when they’re grumpy and tired, for the four hours between school dismissal and bedtime (and having those four hours be further reduced by homework.)
  8. Little kids can understand big games. Tonight after dinner, E asked me if we could play Azul, and most importantly, if she could play by herself (i.e. not on someone else’s team.) I wasn’t sure how it would go — I sort of doubted her ability to keep track of all the rules — but I was pleasantly surprised. E was able to learn and keep track of all the rules and game mechanics. She still lost by fifty points, but who cares? She was very proud of herself, and I was proud of her.
  9. N’s talent for following LEGO instructions carries over into other kits. He built a “claw monster” (robotic arm) this evening from a kit my uncle bought him. He was very proud of himself despite the fact that it didn’t quite do anything yet. Baby steps, right?
  10. I probably shouldn’t have committed to a “top ten” list before fully outlining my points. Sorry, but I ran out of steam around number eight. Lesson learned. G’night!