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.

bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · Kids · lists · parenting

Superstars (brag warning)

My children are superstars.

Friday’s drive was about 7 hours of travel time (including a few stops) and we had maybe 20 minutes of whining spread over the entire trip. And that was with the torrential downpours that made it impossible to see anything or drive at a normal speed, and with getting soaked every time we got out of the car to go into a rest stop. K loved her surprises and even served as entertainment director for N, handing him new toys every so often and playing peek-a-boo when he got bored.

Today’s drive was plagued with an unintentional detour (although now I can say I’ve been to Oka, where a famous standoff took place between the police and an aboriginal group) and some terrible traffic right around when we wanted to stop for dinner. Ten hours after we left Saint-Sauveur, we pulled into our driveway. We may have had a total of thirty minutes of whining. K used stickers and index cards to make invitations for her stuffed sheep’s birthday, she built a family of dinosaurs out of play mais, and she examined all of her stuffed animals and applied band-aids liberally to their poor little bodies. N slept for about 5 of the 9 hours on the trip.

I have some cute pics of K playing with her surprise gifts, but I’m too tired to dig out the camera right now. I’ll blog more about it tomorrow. In the meantime, let me leave you with my tips for a successful road trip with young kids:

1. Bring surprise gifts for the kids. The more elaborately wrapped the longer they’ll take to unwrap, and taking up time is really the point of the exercise. As for the contents – open-ended crafts or building toys seemed to be the best for sustained play.

2. Bring lots of snacks. A 9-hour car ride is not (in my opinion) the time to be strict about how many cookies are too many. Again, distraction is key. If you can achieve distraction with grapes, do. If it takes gummy bears… well, stock up.

3. Prepare kids’ music that you like. Unless you want to hear a lot of whining, load up the iPod or make a mix CD with songs that you love as much as the kids do, and be prepared to play DJ for them.

4. Hit the Golden Arches. As much as I dislike their food, McD’s seemed to be the only place we could take the kids to stretch their legs and play for 20 minutes on a rainy day. K still talks about all the “tubes” and how she climbed all the way to the top even though it was scary.

5. Find out-of-the-way stops. We used the standard highway rest stops a couple of times, but had great success when we went off the highway just a bit. Once we ended up sitting in the grassy shade next to a chip wagon, which K loved because she got to climb the huge hunk of granite that was sticking out of the ground a few feet away, and which N loved because he was actually able to roam freely for a while. Another time we left the beaten track to find a Playplace (at Mcd’s) for K, and a third time we just wanted a restaurant where someone would bring us our food for a change. Anyhow, these places were less crowded and more fun than the standard highway stops.

6. Don’t count on naptime. N slept a ton, K not at all until the last hour of a 9-hour day. Had I planned on not having to entertain her for two hours while she napped, I’d have been frustrated and short on distractions.

7. Bring multiples of everything. Multiple blankets for snuggling in the car, multiple outfits, even multiple sippy cups – because you won’t be able to reach the ones that have been pushed out of the carseat onto the floor. Having an organized stash within reach means less discomfort, and hence less whining.

8. Accept that any rest stop, even just a stop to pee, will probably take 20-30 minutes. It just will.

9. Brush up your camp songs, especially the kind where the kids have to repeat after you. Bonus points for songs with actions.

10. Remember that it’s only one day. Even if the kids scream the whole time, you can start fresh with them tomorrow.

bikes planes and automobiles · Kids · lists · parenting

Road trip!

Yes, a road trip. With two kids under the age of 4. Should be interesting, yes?

It takes roughly 5 hours to drive from Toronto to Montreal, but we’ll have to make more stops than usual to let the kids stretch their legs and move around a bit… not to mention time for diaper changes and potty trips. In an effort to stave off whining and moaning, I’ve prepared a bunch of surprise “gifts” for K to open – 5 in total, one for each hour on the road:

  1. Digital camera (a kid one, of course)
  2. Sticker album and reusable stickers
  3. Toy car (she requested one, actually)
  4. Washable markers and some blank paper
  5. Play mais (corn-based puffs that stick together when wet) and a small damp sponge in a tupperware
  6. Foam stickers and blank index cards
  7. Wooden blocks
  8. Magnetic dress-up princess tin (as in, the princesses are printed on the tin and their magnetic clothes are stored inside)
  9. Veterinarian kit – doctor bag and small stuffed farm animals
  10. Play-doh, rolling pin, and cookie cutter

You’ll notice that of the first five items, four are things I don’t mind losing. I kept some of the “keeper” toys for the homeward trip so that there’s less chance of them going missing. There’s nothing that can’t be cleaned up with baby wipes, and nothing that could be dangerous if N got his hands on them.

But how, you ask, can K play with a toy car, markers, and blocks in the car? Simple. We bought her one of these:

If you guessed that K requested a toy car after seeing the front of this tray’s package, you’re absolutely right. Kids are so suggestible.

Anyhow, I’m hoping that with the hourly surprise toys, the stop at a petting zoo, and some judiciously applied kids’ music, the trip might actually be fun for us all.

Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

Jewy goodness · lists · Work-in-progress Wednesday

Work-in-Progress Wednesday – May 11 Edition

I know you’re out there. I can hear you breathing.

I can even hear you procrastinating, or else being productive and forgetting to brag about it on WIP Wednesdays. I’m cold and lonely and the wolves are after me… please join me by:

  • leaving a comment with a link to your blog
  • posting on your blog about your current project and what you hope to achieve (it can be a tiny goal) by next Wednesday
  • adding a pic to your post, if possible
  • linking back from your post to this one, so that other people can join the party

See? It’s easy! And if you don’t have a blog you can guest post on mine. So… get busy.

Here’s my contribution:

Completed: Preschooler Shabbat Task Chart

This one was pretty fun to do, and pretty easy. Basic clipart, a Word document, and a self-laminating plastic envelope. The magnets are basic round magnets from the office supply store – I measured them, cropped a few photos to the same size and shape, printed the cropped photos on full-sheet label paper, cut them out, and stuck them to the magnets. Voila!

As you might have guessed from the photo, one side of each magnet is a picture of a family member, and the other side is a checkmark. The magnets indicate who is responsible for each task. When the task is done, the magnet is flipped over so that the checkmark is visible. Simple, fun, and it makes me feel organized.

Here’s the pic again, for those who missed Friday’s post:

And for those who just want to copy the image and print it out at home, here’s the chart (sans family members):

(In case I wasn’t explicit enough, you all have my express permission to copy, paste, rearrange, print, and use this image.)

In Progress: Everything!

Like most people, I have a long “to do” list… and, mundane as the tasks are, it’s time I stopped postponing them in favour of more fun projects. So this week, I treat you to a “before” picture of… my to-do list!

(As an aside, I just recently started using this online to-do list program, and I love it. Mr. December can also log in and add items, I can keep all my shopping lists on there (I recently had the most comprehensive and best-organized Canadian Tire run I’ve ever had), and it shows me my “done” items, too.)

So there you have it…

Now for the audience participation – which of these projects (you can choose more than one) do you want to see pics of, come next Wednesday? (please don’t say the messy car)

Now… go forth and be productive… and blog about it… and link back to me… and comment to say you’ve done it… Go!

Jewy goodness · lists


Wanted: A new Haggadah for a family tired of the red-and-yellow Goldberg edition.

Must possess the following qualities:

  • Reads right to left, regardless of the amount of English translation. Haggadot that open left to right need not apply.
  • Mostly uses traditional God-language. None of this “we bless the womb of all life” business. My family and guests will laugh that kind of thing right out of the room.
  • Good (not awkward) English translation.
  • Some new/alternate texts (in English) that may generate interest among a crowd of jaded agnostic Jews.
  • A layout that allows for easy reading of the text (no sidebars), i.e. we could go around the table taking turns, and everyone would know exactly where to start and where to leave off.

Attractive layout, illustrations, and pages that don’t absorb wine stains would be preferred, but not required. Wait, scratch that last one. Wine stains give the haggadah character.

See? I’m not asking much. Just… a haggadah.

Jewy goodness · lists

Is it that time already?

Yes, it is. Purim was over a week ago and I only have three weeks before Pesach (Passover). Three WEEKS, people. That’s nothing! In  that time, I’m expected to do the following:

1. Rid the house of all chametz (leavened foods), including the crumbs in the couch, pretzel bits in the board books, and stale bagel pieces hidden among K’s toys. Realistically, this means a really really thorough spring cleaning – even though I KNOW that dirt is not chametz (could someone please tell my mom that, btw?), the reality of toddlers is that there’s probably chametz everywhere. Sigh.

2. Switch over my kitchen, meaning clearing cabinets to make room for the passover dishes, pots, utensils, etc. In our small kitchen, this is a bit tough. Maybe I’ll stick to disposable kitchen stuff this year and save myself some of the headache?

3. Find new haggadot (plural of haggadah) so that our seder is not plagued yet again by awkward translations and dry text. In a related task, I need to figure out how to make our seder not suck. My initial suggestion (“let’s just not invite the people who think this is nothing more than an excuse for a family dinner”) didn’t fly, so I have to somehow accommodate the following attitudes:

  • the traditionalist who feels that if we miss any text, it hasn’t been a real seder. Particular peeves of the traditionalist include skipping the singing of “Dayenu”.
  • the serious guy who feels that “fun” additions like props and toys to illustrate the ten plagues are inappropriate since they make the Egyptians’ suffering amusing, which it’s not supposed to be.
  • the impatient one who really just wants to get past all the reading and eat, already.
  • the bystanders who will pretty much go along with anything, as long as they don’t have to make any effort

One year, my cousin (a rabbi, and a very engaging one at that) was at our seder. He took me aside during the meal and said, “man, this is a tough crowd. I don’t know how you do this every year!” Yep, it’s official. This crowd is a pain in the ass.


There are other things I need to do before Pesach, like making sure we all have nice holiday clothes and, of course, cooking for two nights of four-course dinners for twenty people (helping my mum. I am NOT hosting twenty people in my house). But the above are the big things, the stressy things, and three weeks is just not enough time.

lists · well *I* think it's funny...

10 things to do with that *ahem* odd-looking loofah

10. Individually test condoms for friction-resistance.

9. Thread a cord-and-socket set through it, and voila – an avant-garde pendant lamp for the kitchen!

8. Use it as a decoy wasp’s nest.

7. Pack it in a basket with some nice soaps as a thank-you gift for your favourite mohel.

6. Use it to spice up your old scarecrow (Because times have changed.  The crows really are harder to scare nowadays.)

5. Display it proudly on your mantel as an objet d’art. When people giggle, look at them disapprovingly and tell them to get their minds out of the gutter.

4. Donate it to a nature museum, explaining that it’s the most unique nest you’ve ever seen.

3. Wear it as a penis cozy on frosty mornings.

2. Cover it with papier-mache, fill with candy, and invite your friends to beat it until it spews forth yummy goodness.

1. Use it… as a loofah.