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


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?

family fun · it's my potty · Kids · lists · whine and cheese · Work-in-progress Wednesday

Work-in-Progress Wednesday: potty edition

So yeah, N has started bringing me clean diapers when he wants to be changed. Then today he seemed interested in sitting on the potty, so I took off his diaper. He took off running… and came back in a minute with a magazine. He then proceeded to sit on the potty and examine the pictures. I swear, he was the spitting image of his dad.

Unfortunately, the… um… event did not happen while he was sitting on the potty, but shortly thereafter (perhaps while looking for another magazine.) To his credit, he brought me the poop and then pulled a kleenex out of the box and wiped the floor.


Moving on… not a lot has gotten done around here. Not only have we all been sick but our part-time nanny was sick too, which meant a sick mommy trying to take care of three sick kids. We’re still sick, but the nanny seems to have bounced back nicely. I did get some things done – let me tell you about them.

Completed: Scavenger hunt list

I finished the scavenger hunt list for K’s birthday party. The hunt will be done in the dark living/dining room with only flashlights for guidance. I’ll be planting enough of the items that each team of three or four kids will be able to find everything if they really look. Here’s the list:

And for those who want to print it for themselves, here’s the PDF:

Camping Scavenger Hunt

For those who can’t see it properly, and for those who are curious about where this stuff is coming from, here’s the rundown:

Pinecone and Stick – We’re going to take a walk on a nearby nature trail and find a few of each.

Feather – We have a down pillow that insists on shedding its feathers. We’ll just pull a few and call it a day.

Blade of grass – I’m going to cut down some of the ornamental blue oat grass from my backyard and tape it to one of the legs of the dining table.

Mushroom – Yeah, supermarket mushrooms. But maybe something a bit more exotic looking than the usual white button mushrooms.

Animal tracks – Since we’re doing this hunt in the dark, I’m going to cut some animal prints out of white vinyl (left over from the cloud decals) and stick them to the floor.

Bear – Teddy bears, of course.

So that’s done.

Shelved until further notice: rec room floor

You know what? I just don’t have the energy right now to start cutting up foam mats and piecing them back together. I’m abandoning this project for the time being.

Still in progress: get everyone healthy

Wouldn’t you know it, K had been fully healthy for 48 hours when – BAM – she started with the sneezing and runny nose of a fresh new cold. And then I got N’s pinkeye. R still has a wet, phlegmy cough. N is still coughing too, but seems to be on the mend. In the midst of it all Mr. December stands as a shining example of a man with a working immune system.

I felt like a failure at this task until a friendly family doctor informed me that young kids in school or daycare get, on average, thirty illnesses a year. Is it even worth ramping up the hand-washing and administering lots of vitamins?

In progress: Party giveaways

You know that I hate loot bags… but sending kids home with nothing is a surefire way to earn their disapproval. Since our theme is camping we’ll be handing out a mini flashlight to each kid, along with stickers to put their name on it, when they arrive. As they leave I plan to hand out tiny packets containing a couple of graham crackers, a mini milk chocolate bar or some chocolate chips, a kosher marshmallow or two, and instructions on how to make s’mores in the microwave. That’s it. I’m also trying to think of a relevant charity to support by making a donation in honour of K’s guests.

Anyhow, this week I plan to purchase the flashlights as well as all the component ingredients for the s’mores packets.

And that’s it. Anybody else being productive these days? Tell me all about it in the comments.

bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · lists · parenting

It’s all fun and games until someone gets pinkeye.

Yes, pinkeye. I don’t know where N got it from, and I don’t know why K doesn’t have it (but I’m thankful), and I’m washing my hands so frequently that the skin on my hands looks a lot like the floor of death valley:

Our family doctor’s office is usually wonderful about fitting us in for urgent concerns, but when N woke up at 2:15 yesterday afternoon with puffy, oozing eyes, there was nothing they could do for us. I called a walk-in clinic and discovered that they were only taking registration for another twenty-five minutes.

Twenty-five minutes. Two of my children were pants-free, we all needed to put on shoes and outerwear, and I’d have to get them all buckled in and over to the clinic. I decided that it would be faster just to take the bike (due to traffic and poorly timed lights, it can take quite a long time to get there by car). Miracle of miracles, everyone cooperated and we made it to the clinic with 6 minutes to spare!

So there I was, at the walk-in clinic inside a large drugstore, waiting with two mobile young children and an infant in her carseat. Getting there in time may sound like an impressive feat, but it was getting through the wait without trashing the place that took some really creative parenting.

For those of you playing along at home, I’m happy to share my strategies. Here we go…

How to occupy young kids at the doctor’s office:

1. Play Simon Says. It doesn’t matter if they’re too young to really understand how the game works – they’ll just be entertained watching you demonstrate each command.

2. Read them the notices that are posted on the wall. Throw in some silly rules and see if they notice. Apparently K knows that the pharmacy wouldn’t post a sign about picking up after your pet rhinoceros. Why not? Because rhinoceroses have to stay outside. Duh.

3. If the floor has any kind of tiles or patterned carpet, use it to your advantage. See who can walk on the line without stepping off it. Play hopscotch using the grid of the tiles. If you don’t know how to play hopscotch, make it up. Remember, we’re going for something fun and something to pass the time. Anything will do.

4. While you wait in the exam room, play “catch the dot”. Most popular with cats and laser pointers, this game can also be played with your kids and an otoscope (that thing the doctor uses to look in the kids’ ears). Take the scope out of its holder on the wall – the light will go on automatically – and point it at the wall. Start moving it all around and see if the kids can “catch” it.

5. Play doctor. Let the kids be the doctors, you be the patient, and see what kind of exam they come up with. K, for example,  has removed many a bird from my ear.

Now you know all my tricks. What are yours?

have you bento my house for lunch? · Kids · lists · what's cookin'

Determined to be organized

Tomorrow is the first day of school.

K has a lunchbox and a water bottle that she chose herself. She’s got three placemats (one for each day that she’s staying for lunch). Her new pants have been shortened appropriately and her new wardrobe is stocked with complete outfits from which she can choose. Her school shoes are labeled. Her extra outfit is ready.

I’m trying so hard to get and stay organized this year. I just can’t see how we’ll manage with three kids unless everything is laid out in advance.

So now I’m trying to decide two things: 1. what to serve for breakfast tomorrow, and 2. what to pack in her bento.

First things first… breakfast. I actually really want to get a small crockpot and start making really good oatmeal overnight at least a few times a week. Stores are shut today, though, so that’s not going to happen in time for tomorrow. Maybe scrambled eggs?

And lunch? Well, there’s lots of colourful produce in our house right now, most of which is seasonal and really good. I guess she’ll be getting cherry tomatoes, coronation grapes (deep purple/blue, taste like concord but seedless), cucumber slices (or maybe cut-out shapes), and a turkey sandwich on Italian bread. Possibly half a peach, especially if I can hollow it out to make a bowl for the grapes. So in terms of colours, I’ve got red, blue, green, orange/yellow, and beige. Sounds okay… maybe I’ll add a winnie-the-pooh sandwich pick for fun.

… and that’s my brain dump for the day. Tune in tomorrow for pictures and stories of how it all actually went down.