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!
goodbye clutter! · lists

Out of hibernation: my organized life

Whew. I’ve made it through winter break with my sense of humour mostly intact, sailed through Chanuka with enough time and energy to make my own sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts,) ran a princess birthday party (for K) that didn’t make me want to hurl, and I even had time to read. All the while I was thinking, “I should blog this!” but we all know how that went. Sorry.

So anyhow, I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Have you read it? I loved the idea of determining small, concrete actions to take each and every day. And since I’ve had it up to here with feeling overwhelmed and underproductive, I decided to take (small, concrete) action.

I’ve tried to get organized using apps and websites, only to discover that in this realm I’m a low-tech kind of person. I bought myself a massive calendar with big squares for each day and started writing everything on it: menu plans, recurring tasks (pay the bills, for example,) and – my favourite – my “five minuteses.”

Five Minuteses are tasks that take very little time to complete, but keep getting put off. Changing a particular lightbulb, for example, or fixing a broken toy. Sending an email or making a call. Instead of promising myself to do them “sometime” I write them on the calendar, only one a day. Right now I’m booking my Five Minuteses about nine days ahead, which sounds like a long time until you consider that some of these tasks have been on my mind for months. So far I’ve done ten of those tasks and I have nine more penciled in. Isn’t that exciting? The stuff’s getting done!

It’s amazing how much calmer and more organized I feel, just from being able to know exactly when a task will be done. The lack of procrastination feels good. And boy, do I love seeing all those checkmarks on the calendar!

In other organized news: the great basement purge is going great guns and the basement rec room will soon be kid-safe (no more batteries or coke-can sculptures lying around.) I can breathe a little. I may become addicted to purging my stuff… but only if it’s scheduled on the calendar.

So… if you’re still reading… whether or not you celebrate the new year in January, do you often use this month as a fresh start? What are you going to start doing? Tell me in the comments, please!

better homes than yours · bikes planes and automobiles · blogging · DIY · goodbye clutter! · lists · weight loss

We interrupt this lull to bring you… my life.

People keep asking me how I’m enjoying my summer vacation. It surprises me every time. I’m a mom. I don’t get summer vacation. Summer is my busy season – no school, later bedtime for the kids, earlier wake-ups (I have a love-hate relationship with the long summer days,) the garden, day trips… I’m busy. I can’t wait for school to start, not because I don’t enjoy my children’s company, but because I’ll actually have time do get things done in increments greater than ten minutes. Oh, and I might get enough time to myself to do something decadent, like going back to Weight Watchers (yes, I’ve fallen off the wagon and am crawling back on, shamefaced, seven pounds heavier.)

And yet, I get a fair number of things done. Without further ado, here’s my list of

THINGS THAT MADE ME FEEL GREAT TODAY

1. I fished N’s pyjama pants out of the kitchen wall vent. The vent has now been covered.

2. I managed a Lowe’s run in under 20 minutes. Also, everybody there greeted me by name and asked about my current projects.

3. The construction worker who stands at the end of our street to stop cars from entering told me that she always recognizes me (and therefore moves the pylons aside) because I always smile at her.

4. Our garage is now clean and empty of anything we’re not currently using.

5. I biked about 30 minutes today. So much better than driving.

 

I feel lonely out here in the big, cold internet. Leave me a comment:

What do you feel great about today?  And

If I have limited blogging time, what kinds of things would you rather I blogged about? Crafty stuff? My life? Deep thoughts?

lists · Menu plan Monday · what's cookin'

Menu Plan Monday – June 11 edition

Remember how I made a tilapia parmesan a few weeks ago? It was good – and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t eat fish. It was so good that I had two helpings at dinner and then ate the leftovers for lunch. Yum! That one is definitely going into the regular rotation, especially during the summer months.

In other dinner-related news, I’ve recently found frozen prepared meats (roast brisket, beef ribs) that taste amazing and are actually cheaper than buying the same meat raw. Weird… how do they do that? Anyhow, it’s nice to have a few of those in the freezer for days when I don’t feel like actually cooking.

I need to do a huge grocery shop this week – in a few minutes I’ll be going upstairs to inventory my pantry and fridge – so the menu planning will be fast and furious, followed by the customary Making of Lists.

Here’s what’s for dinner this week:

Monday – (Mr. December works late, no dinner for him) Picnic in the park! Falafel sandwiches (will probably pack ingredients separately and assemble when we are ready to eat), fresh fruit (watermelon?), homemade lemonade to drink.

Tuesday – Beef ribs (prepared freezer food!), mashed potatoes, green peas

Wednesday – Tilapia Parmesan (yum!) over whole-wheat linguine

Thursday – Taco night

Friday – Stuffed schnitzel roll-ups, rice, broccoli, challah, Israeli salad, fruit for dessert

Saturday – Coldcut sandwiches

Sunday – BBQ… hot dogs and burgers on (homemade?) buns

Monday – Picnic in the park!

… and that’s it. But readers, I’m curious. How do you organize your shopping list and meal planning? Tell me, do tell…

Not sure what to make for dinner? Get some ideas over at Menu Plan Monday!

crafty · Jewy goodness · lists · parenting · weight loss · Work-in-progress Wednesday

Work-in-Progress Wednesday: Countdown to Passover edition

First of all, a shout-out to Elizabeth for subtly pushing me to do WIP Wednesday this week. Click on her name, because she’s joining WIP Wednesday! Go give her some bloggy love.

As for me, I’ve done nothing related to the following projects:

  • Photo books
  • Library doors
  • Kids’ table
  • Spring planting

Yup, nada. I’ve been spending my time dealing with K, who’s had a high fever for the last five days (doctor couldn’t fit us in today: we’re going in at 9 tomorrow,) a very clingy N, and a clingy, demanding R. Also, Passover is coming and that means some major planning and cleaning. Here’s the rundown:

In Progress: Using up the pantry

As of mid-morning a week Friday, We can’t have anychametz (leaven) in our home. There is a practice wherein we can box up all the leaven, put it away somewhere, and sell the box to a non-Jew for the week of Passover, but that always seemed disingenuous to me. So this year I’ve been planning since Purim, cobbling together weird meals from what’s in the pantry, and basically trying to use up everything that isn’t kosher for passover.

To that end, I’ve been baking (bad for the diet) and cooking a lot more desserts than usual. Last week I attempted baguettes – major fail. This week I’m trying to get rid of rice, so we’re eating rice porridge for breakfast, fried rice for dinner, and rice pudding for dessert. I still have half a canister of rice. Any suggestions?

In progress: Passover cleaning

For the record, I have a love-hate relationship with Passover cleaning. The hate is easy to understand, I’m sure. The love… well, I do feel that without Passover cleaning I might never throw out old spices or clean the cupboard where the garbage cans live (it gets grody in there.) And it feels really good to open the fridge and see no crumbs, no drips, and no forgotten leftovers.

The fridge is currently the only place where I’ve made progress: I emptied it, washed the entire inside including the shelves, and lined the shelves with plastic wrap. Then I put all of the edible stuff back in. This way I can just take out any remainingchametz, remove the plastic wrap, and – voila! – my fridge is kosher for passover.

This week I have a major list to get through: Clean the freezer, oven, and microwave; wash down all cabinet doors; clean out all cabinets; clean under/behind fridge and stove; vacuum the couch (including under the cushions and in the cracks; wash slipcovers; hunt for discarded and forgotten cheerios, pizza crusts, and half-eaten cookies (a definite hazard in my house); wash the garbage containers and the cupboard in which they live; empty the pantry, donating any non-kosher for passover food to the food bank, and throwing out the open stuff; tape off the cabinets with the year-round dishes, empty the drawers, and bring up all the passover dishes and utensils from the basement. Oh, and I have to sand the butcher block and oil it.

Gosh, I’m tired just typing that. This year I’ll be keeping the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in mind: “Dust is not chametz, and children are not the Passover offering.” I’m determined not to sacrifice my children on the altar of Passover cleaning perfection.

In Progress: Weight Watchin’

I’m down two more pounds this week, bringing the total to 18. Every week I say “that’s just noise because I’m wearing lighter clothes/I peed and breastfed right before weighing in/my major chocolate binge hasn’t had time to turn into fat yet.” It would seem, however, that the downward trend continues – so how much of it is really noise?

This week my goal is to get at least 15 minutes of vigorous exercise each day, on top of the usual cleaning/baby bouncing/running after kids.

In Progress: baby quilt

I’m attending a baby shower this weekend, and I’m making them a quilt. All the fabric is cut – I just have to sew it all together, quilt it and bind it. I’ve set aside a block of time tomorrow.

… looks like that’s it. Don’t forget to check out Elizabeth’s WIPs… and hey is anybody else out there trying to achieve something this week?

bikes planes and automobiles · crafty · DIY · family fun · Kids · lists · whine and cheese · Work-in-progress Wednesday

Work-in-Progress Wednesday: “OW!” edition

Ow. Ow ow owowowowowow owie ow.

My legs hurt.

N and R and I took the bike to pick K up from school today, which means that I biked 15k today with 70 pounds of kid in the bakfiets, really pushing my speed on a very gradual incline for half of that distance.

(On a side note, is it not obscene that it’s January in Toronto and the weather and roads are good enough for me to confidently bike with little kids? And is it wrong that I’m happy about this weather? Screw global warming, I’m going to be in fabulous shape!)

Anyhow, it was a lot of biking, and I really pushed myself, and now my legs hurt. I had a warm bath (with R – what fun!) but they’re still achy. I know that tomorrow will be worse, but I console myself with the fact that I earned an extra 10 Weight Watchers points if I want to eat something outrageous.

On another note, I lost three pounds this week. Hooray!

But let’s talk tachlis (That’s Yiddish. It means “to the point” or “to the purpose”).

NOT Completed: K’s Kippah

I still haven’t finished that kippah, which is pathetic when you consider that it would take maybe ten minutes to finish. But here’s a list of things I DID finish this week:

  • I adapted our kitchen faucet handle so that K can reach it.
  • Installed touch lights in the children’s closet and wardrobe.
  • Installed a reading light for K.
  • Re-mounted the mirror in the kids’ room so that N can’t pull it off the wall anymore.
  • Swapped out the power bars in the kids’ room for new ones with a flat plug. The furniture is finally flush against the wall again.
  • Nailed in all of the finishing nails that had popped up out of the wood floor.

See? I was productive. And it was a whole lot of stuff that needed to get done and that I can never do in the evenings because the kids are asleep in that room.

In Progress: photo books

I started scrapbooking K’s baby pictures. That was all fine and good, but she’s four years old and my scrapbooking still hasn’t covered the first year of her life. I’ve decided that I’m much likely to get all the kids’ photos in albums if I do it digitally instead of hauling out tons of paper, printed photos, embellishments, tools…

Right. So my major project, probably from now until eternity, is creating digital scrapbooks for each of the kids and then having them printed. Anybody want to recommend a good service that is Mac-compatible?

(Don’t say iPhoto. I need more creative wiggle room than they offer.)

This week I hope to do five pages for N’s baby book. Here’s the first one:

I’d better get to it, then. R is asleep (a rarity at this hour – usually she’s crying from 9 until 1 a.m. and I’m dancing around with her… hence the lack of posts) and I have a golden opportunity to sit at the computer and churn out a page or two before bed.

Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Kids · lists

Here comes hannuka, right down hannuka lane…

Oh, right. Hannuka isn’t Christmas. I guess that’s why I didn’t even flinch when someone mentioned that Chanuka starts on Tuesday. That’s tomorrow, and I don’t have anything ready… except The Box.

I’ve decided that keeping the books and toys and ritual objects for each holiday out all year long makes them less interesting when the holiday does roll around. To that end, when I built my workshop storage unit I commandeered a box for each Jewish holiday. Every time I declutter or tidy a room, anything pertaining to a holiday goes into the appropriate box. So it was with great equanimity that I noted the impending arrival of Hannukah.

Here’s a peek inside the box. Okay, not literally, but here are the things I’ll be pulling out in two days:

Candles - the nice kind that look all pretty.

Books. My favourite is this one, Harvest of Light. It describes the process of harvesting olives and turning them into oil for use in the menorah.

Games. Dreidels, of course, but also this game - Staccabees - that feels like a cross between dreidel and jenga.

Decorations. We don't get all Christmas-y, but we do have these sparkly window clings that look especially lovely at night.

… and that’s it. K already put up the window clings, although their static-y magic means that she can take them down and rearrange them as often as she likes. While I wait for R to fall asleep in her swing (don’t ask) tonight, I’ll be displaying the Chanuka-related books, a dreidel, a menorah, and some candles on the kids’ table where N and K can practice putting the candles into the holders (great fine motor practice) and spinning the dreidels (ditto).

Oh, and it wouldn’t be Chanuka without latkes, right? Which means we need potatoes… good thing I have a cubic foot of potatoes right outside my door, waiting to be harvested. I’m sure N won’t object to some messy digging.

So… if you had a Chanuka box, what would be in it?