Fibro Flares · Jewy goodness · Just the two of us · love and marriage · The COVID files

Day 407: Netflix and Chills

As many people warned me, today I felt pretty icky in the aftermath of my COVID shot. The good news is that my immune system is doing its job. The bad news is that I felt fluish and everything hurt—which I thought wouldn’t be a big deal since I’m used to everything hurting, but this pain was sharper and just… more, somehow.

We still managed to have a pretty nice evening, the Mr. and I. I popped Advil and Tylenol and then snuggled on the couch with Mr. December to watch On the Basis of Sex, the film about Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

On the one hand, it was really nice to watch a movie about a Jewish woman as the hero of the story. On the other hand… would it have killed the writers and producers to let her say “L’chaim” instead of “Cheers” as she and her husband toasted her new job? Or for her husband to refer to her mom as “Bubbie” instead of “Grandma” when telling their daughter about her?

But I’m quibbling over minutiae. The bottom line is that we had a lovely date night of Netflix and chills. (That is what the kids call it nowadays, right?)

Just the two of us · love and marriage · The COVID files

Day 406: Shots, Dinner, and a Movie

I got shot today.

Mr. December and I shot up together today.

Shoot me now.

The Mr. and I got our COVID vaccines today (AstraZenica, just like everyone else in our age bracket.) Getting shots is not as much fun as doing shots, but it was still more fun to do together than it would have been alone. It’s also easier to get a good angle on the obligatory vaccination selfie. The pharmacist assured me that the vaccine works just as well if you don’t take a selfie and post it online, but I’m not taking any chances. Can’t hurt, might help. Right?

Image description: a woman with brown hair, green glasses, a tie-dye face mask, and a green sweater. Her left shoulder is exposed and she is getting an injection.

Tonight we (as in, just the two of us) watched A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood. So now I have the friendliest earworm stuck in my head (“Please won’t you be my neighbour?”) and am thinking that my kids haven’t seen nearly enough Mr. Rogers.

It’s late and my arm is achy, but I’m thankful for the vaccine and for Mr. December. There’s nobody I’d rather do get shots with.

Early morning musings · Fibro Flares · Kids · love and marriage · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 384: Is *that* why I’m so happy?

Yesterday when I hauled my achy body downstairs in the morning, a full, fresh pot of hazelnut coffee was a very welcome sight. Mr. December had gotten downstairs before me.

“Kids,” I said after I’d had my first sip, “Your father is a prince among men.”

“Why?” They asked.

“Because he makes me coffee in the mornings; When I come downstairs I can have a nice warm drink right away.” I said.

“And that makes him a prince?” K inquired.

I nodded.

“Because he made you coffee, which he was making for himself anyway?” She prodded further.

“Because he makes enough coffee for us both to have refills. And he does it every time without my having to even ask. Besides, it’s not the grand romantic gestures that make love last. It’s all the little things you do to make each other’s day even just a bit better.” I’ll admit I was pretty proud of squeezing in an important life lesson before we’d even had breakfast. I looked over the rim of my coffee cup at the kids, watching to see how they digested what I’d said. K spoke up first.

“Eema…” she paused as if looking for the right words, “I think maybe your standards are too low.”

family fun · love and marriage · The COVID files

Day 364: Like Father, Like Daughter

Tonight R asked me to braid her hair before bed. She might have just been looking for a reason to watch The Simpsons, but I’ll take that over her dreadlocks any day. Since they were all sitting side-by-side I braided R’s hair, then E’s, and then I started working on Mr. December. He’s such a good sport.

Guys with ponytails are old news, and now we have the man bun… how long before French braids become the new trend for men with COVID hair?

Kids · love and marriage · parenting · The COVID files · waxing philosophical

Day 353: Re-evaluating

I’m moving into a different phase of life, it seems. E isn’t a baby anymore. Gone are the days of endless diapers and drooly kisses. I realized only today that it’s time to re-evaluate some of my personal rules that have served me well since 2008. Among them:

Only buying super cheap clothes because “someone is going to vomit all over it or flick paint at it or touch it with greasy little hands, and I’ll be sad if I spent more than $5 on my shirt and only wore it twice before it was ruined.”

Not using any kind of face moisturizer because my toddlers’ idea of a kiss involved a very open mouth and far more tongue than is appropriate for a non-romantic relationship.

Not wearing jewellery because it would scratch my babies’ faces when I held them, or because the kids would chew on it and get who-knows-what metals in their mouths (especially in the case of costume jewellery.)

See what I mean? Those rules need to change.

I’m actually entering a phase of buying more expensive clothes because I finally feel confident that I’ll be able to wear the same things for years. These days the only person getting paint on my clothes is me, and if I can’t take two minutes to change or put on a smock before painting, I can only blame myself for the resulting stains. And Mr. December and I are increasingly trying to buy clothes (and other things) produced by people who were actually paid a living wage. Locally made clothes, too, if possible. That stuff doesn’t come cheap.

On the moisturizer front, well, when I decided to stop using it I was twenty-eight years old. Now I’m forty-one and my skin isn’t as elastic as it used to be. It’s also brutally dry here in the winter and it shows on my face, which gets itchy when it’s dry. The no-moisturizer rule should probably be retired, at least until I have grandbabies who want to lick my face (yes, that’s way off in the future. Yes, I’m looking forward to it.)

And jewellery… that’s kind of laughable these days, when I have zero special occasions to attend and therefore very little need to dress up; I haven’t yet become so bored and despondent as to dress up in formalwear to take out the garbage. I guess I could wear jewellery just because, but that’s not really me. I’m much more practical and streamlined on an average day.

A few of my personal rules that are definitely keepers:

Anybody who wakes me up on a weekend had better be having an emergency. I need my sleep. And my kids need to learn what constitutes an “emergency” lest they become adults who call 911 because their neighbour was rude.

The kids’ job is to play. I’m the mom, and my job is to do mom stuff. I’m not the cruise director or the playmate. Even with older kids—especially with older kids—I assert my right to not have to play games that make me long for the sweet succor of the dentist’s chair.

My marriage predates my kids, and it needs to outlast their childhoods. That’s basically my catchphrase when one of the kids is trying to interrupt a hug or kiss between me and Mr. December. “My marriage predates you,” I say to the kids, “wait your turn.” I sure as heck hope that’s a good way to model marital felicity, because I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

What are your personal rules? And how often do they change?

family fun · Kids · love and marriage · snarky · well *I* think it's funny... · whine and cheese

Day 312: Tough Crowd.

Word to the wise: don’t try to watch movies with my kids. Just don’t.

They’re their father’s children, that’s for sure. If there’s a plot hole or inconsistency, or if a character makes a stupid decision, they’ll shout at the screen. A couple of weeks ago K watched Contagion with Mr. December. Do you know what she took away from that movie? The fact that the doctors were doing an autopsy protected only by regular surgical masks, not N95 masks and plastic face shields.

“What were they thinking?” she ranted for days afterwards. “There’s an unknown pathogen that’s killing people, but hey, just the minimal PPE should protect us even though we don’t know how it’s transmitted. These people are idiots! They should have been wearing hazmat suits!

She’s not wrong. But no matter how many times I explain suspension of disbelief, she just won’t turn off the analytical voice in her head. Maybe she can’t—like her father. One of the big lessons he’s taught me is not to watch movies with an engineer who has a penchant for strategy games, at least not in private. In the theatres he at least keeps quiet for the benefit of people who aren’t married to him.

Tonight we watched Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. It’s possibly the worst movie we could have watched from a wife-and-mom-of-a-highly-critical-audience perspective. I’m sure there was some vaguely amusing dialogue, but I could barely hear it for these bon mots:

“Now is NOT the time to stop for a snack!” N screamed when a dinosaur—who had just eaten two people—stopped to eat another dino instead of running from the erupting volcano.

“You know,” Mr. December opined later, “he should probably have called the police as soon as he knew he’d been betrayed instead of waiting to confront his betrayer in person.”

“Why isn’t there a lock on the cage of the most dangerous dinosaur ever?” R asked; then Mr. December chimed in, “You guys should at least buy a $2 padlock from the dollar store and slap it on there!”

“There wasn’t even ONE INCOMPETENT GUARD! What were they thinking? They deserved to be eaten by those dinosaurs for being so stupid!” K crowed.

“Yeah, you should probably just stand there and look for the source of the terrifying sound instead of GETTING IN YOUR CAR AND DRIVING AWAY AS FAST AS POSSIBLE!!!!” was one of K’s many other contributions.

Did I mention how great they are? They’re the best. They’re also reading over my shoulder as I type this post. They’re so awesome. Especially when they stop reading over my shoulder and Go. To. Sleep.

education · family fun · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · Kids · love and marriage · Montessori · snarky · The COVID files · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 309: Snapshot of a Homeschool Day

8:05 a.m. – I wake up. One of the nicest things about homeschooling is that we can finally get the sleep our bodies need.

8:30 a.m. – Freshly showered and dressed, I go downstairs to make oatmeal and coffee. The kids are already up and dressed, and are just waiting for breakfast.

9:15 a.m. – We had decided on a late start this morning; normally this would happen at 9:00. We all meet in the attic for our family exercise time: three sun salutations, six pushups, six squats, eight sit-ups. Every day we increase one exercise by one repetition.

9:30 a.m. – Mr. December works on physics with the three older kids while I do some Montessori lessons with E.

10:00 a.m. – K has a coaching session now, so I get her set up in the library. R and N start working on their Kumon at the dining room table. It quickly becomes apparent that they’re not focusing well, though, so N is banished to his room, where he has a usable (read: clean!) desk. I return to my work with E.

10:30 a.m. – R is still working on the same five Kumon problems. Each time she starts a new one, I hear “Eema, I need help!” My standard response: “I can’t right this second. Why don’t you read the question so you can tell me which part you need help with?” A few seconds pass and she replies, “Never mind.” Internally, I lecture: “Child, this is Kumon math. The questions are all the same problem with different numbers!”

11:40 a.m. – Everyone is finished their math except R. “We’re moving on now,” I tell them, but R kicks up a fuss and begins to cry. “If I don’t finish my math, I can’t have any screen time!” she wails. We all sit there and wait for her to finish one measly stinking question. It takes ten minutes.

12:00 p.m. – The kids are settled around the table, eating lunch. I’m reading to them from The Secret Garden, our literature study for the month. I’m switching back and forth between voices and accents: Yorkshire and something a bit more standard, young female, middle aged male, grizzled old gardener. The kids hang on every word. And since their mouths are full of lunch, they don’t interrupt me every few minutes.

1:00 p.m. – “I’m cold!” I announce, and head into the library to start a fire. The kids do their literature copywork on the floor in front of the hearth. Pretty soon I realize that some of them don’t understand margins and indentation very well. A lesson ensues.

1:30 p.m. – We settle down in front of the fire with our sketchbooks and calligraphy markers; each kid’s project to celebrate the end of our studying Pirkei Avot (for now–we obviously didn’t do the whole book) is an illuminated manuscript of the child’s favourite quotation from those we’ve studied. I’ve been learning Hebrew calligraphy on my own, so now I teach the kids how to form the letters with calligraphy markers. I’m shocked (but pleased) that N is working on it with such excitement and interest, given that he’s been resistant to any kind of Jewish learning lately. Here he is, sprawled across the floor, practicing the letters of his chosen quotation.

2:30 p.m. – I suggest to N that maybe it’s time to wrap up the calligraphy for the day; his sisters were done (for the day) long ago.

2:45 p.m. – The four kids and I are snuggled on the couch watching Canada: A People’s History. N loses the privilege of snuggling under my super-soft faux fur throw because he keeps trying to wipe his nose with it. Not with my blanket, buddy.

3:05 p.m. – R and N are begging to be done for the day. I remind R that she has some copywork to finish, and suggest to N that he practice his piano. They do as I say. I look out the window, alert for any signs of flying pigs. There are none. Will wonders never cease?

3:30 p.m. – I go to the post office to pick up a package that I’ve been told is waiting for me… but it isn’t. E and K came along for the ride, so I take the opportunity to get their passport photos taken. If I wait until the COVID lockdowns end, it’ll be us and every other person in the country trying to apply at the same time.

4:30 p.m. – I whipped up some pizza dough half an hour ago, and now each kid gets to make their own pizza. E makes breadsticks, R a pizza and breadsticks, N a standard plain pizza, and K makes a “pizza” with chocolate sauce, strawberries, and mangoes. “You said we could top it with whatever we want!” Note to self: be a bit more specific next time.

5:00 p.m. – Dinnertime. Mr. December and I eat leftover eggplant lasagna while the kids chow down on their pizzas. As soon as I’m done, they beg me to read them a story from Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes. They munch and listen to the story of Psyche. They don’t even know they’re learning!

5:45 p.m. – We squeeze onto the couch to watch the second half of The Story of the Jews, chapter 2. I learned something: the hoods worn by the Ku Klux Klan were copied from Holy Week processions in Spain, which got the idea from the Spanish Inquisition. Seriously, these penitentes in Seville look like the black chess pieces to the KKK’s white. There have been weirder chess sets than that, I’m sure.

6:15 p.m. – Mr. December and I retreat to the library to chat in relative quiet. I end up playing guitar and singing, and later move to the piano to perform the first love song I ever wrote (to Mr. D., of course.) We also take some time to read all the little notes in our new suggestion/complaint box, but that’s a goldmine of material, so I’ll save it for another post.

7:15 p.m. – I realize the reason the kids are so quiet is that they’re watching Netflix on my phone.

7:40 p.m. – “If you don’t choose and eat a bedtime snack now, you won’t get one tonight.” I am so done with the 8:30 p.m. cry of “but I didn’t eat anything yet!” as if we don’t do this every evening.

8:00 p.m. – After she changes and brushes her teeth, E asks me to read to her from What is our Solar System? When I finish the chapter she begs for another. I guess her professed book-hatred has taken a backseat to curiosity.

8:30 p.m. – E is down for the night. Mr. December is reading to the three older kids—they’re at the end of On a Pale Horse and want just a bit more time, even though it’s now bedtime. I shrug and sit down to finish this post. If they’re not ready for bed in twenty minutes, I’ll be the one getting tucked in and demanding extra hugs.

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.
DIY · hackin' it · Keepin' it real · love and marriage · snarky · whine and cheese

Day 255: I’m Not a Tootah

Did you read the title in Arnold Schwartzenegger’s voice? Just wondering, because that’s how I wrote it.

After building my first FIFO can rack, I realized I’d need another, and decided it was high time for me to post a tutorial. I thought about the modifications it needed and designed the whole thing in SketchUp. Then, one morning last week, I gathered my materials and set up Buttercup, my beloved table saw. I even asked Mr. December to take a good photo of me cutting the material.

I was going to explain to you how I upcycled my IKEA PAX drawer dividers from my old closet to serve as the dividers between rows of cans, and how I cut dadoes (grooves) in the shelves to hold the dividers.

Even when one of the boards slid sideways during cutting (note to self: ALWAYS double-check to make sure the guide fence is locked!) and I ended up with some dadoes that looked more like the mark of Zorro than a straight line, I was still committed to the tutorial.

But then I aligned, glued, clamped, and screwed everything, and my mistake became glaringly obvious: the top shelf was too narrow. Where it should have let just one can drop through, it had space for at least two.

Mr. December heard my frustrated moan and my cry of “OH, COME ON!” and laughed. Then he came out of his office to see what the fuss was about and he laughed some more. And that’s when I gave up on making this thing a tutorial.

I fixed it, in the end, by adding a small strip of wood to the back of the top shelf. You can see it in this photo:

Instead of being a relatively quick project with nothing but simple assembly once the pieces were cut, the can rack became a labour-intensive piece of work. I didn’t have the wherewithal to drag Buttercup back out to make dadoes on that tiny piece of wood, so I used my acrylic cutter blade to carve into the plywood. Then I used a flat-headed screwdriver to pry out the top few layers of wood, so the dividers could fit into the slots.

Finally finished, I carefully slid the whole thing into the shelf it was destined for… and discovered that I’d made it about three inches too short. $#!%!!!! I could have fit a whole ‘nother row of cans in there! At this point my confidence in both the ease and quality of this build was shattered.

The rack works, and it makes Mr. December inordinately happy to look at (I picture him walking in there after a tough work meeting and taking a deep, cleansing breath at the sight of his stockpile,) so in that sense it’s a success. My plan for a tutorial, on the other hand, was not. The whole process was a lot less Instructables and a lot more Fail Blog than I thought.

But if you’re a crazy survivalist prepper with a large family, or if you’re married to one, you could make one of these with only some IKEA drawer dividers, plywood, trim, a table saw, lots of glue, some clamps, and a Perspex cutter. And if you manage it in under 8 hours, send me a picture, will you?

family fun · Just the two of us · Keepin' it real · love and marriage

Day 246: Team

“Do you have a curved one-zero-zero-zero?” Mr. December asks.

“What?” I furrow my brow in confusion.

“A one-zero-zero-zero.” He explains, then holds up a puzzle piece that looks like this:

“Oh!” I exclaim. “You mean an Inukshuk-looking dude with spade-shaped feet!”

And that, my friends, is the difference between an engineer and an artist. Mr. December is sorting the puzzle pieces by encoding their ins and outs in binary. I, on the other hand, have sorted them into the following categories:

Clockwise from top: Cartoon mouth, Inukshuk dude with spade-shaped feet, Stingray, Four-way arrow.

  • Inukshuk dude with spade-shaped feet
  • Inukshuk dude with flat feet
  • Four-way arrow
  • Comic-book burst
  • Stingray
  • Cartoon mouth

Not that it makes a difference to our ability to do the puzzle, I just find the whole thing rather amusing.

Way back in March, Mr. December decided we should stock up on non-perishables “just in case.” He went to No Frills and came back with rice, canned beans, dried beans, rolled oats, and two bars of dark chocolate.

“What is this?” I asked as I unpacked.

“Emergency provisions,” he said.

“Honey, we’re not preparing for a zombie apocalypse where the kids will just be thankful they have something to eat. We’re preparing for a possible quarantine, where everything’s fine, everyone’s bored, and the kids are still picky.”

The next day I went out and bought dried fruits, shelf-stable milk, nuts, chocolate chips, canned fruit, vegetable broth in a box, and canned corn. You know, the stuff that makes staples like oatmeal and rice taste good.

We’re good that way, Mr. December and I. There’s very little overlap in our skill sets, which means we function better together than apart; and because we’re aware that our skills differ, we can avoid the whole “Whose job is this?” question and just stick to our respective strengths. He figures out how many cans of beans we need and emphasizes the need for a FIFO system, and then I go and build it. He makes sure things are efficient and scalable; I make the actual things that enable us to be efficient and scalable, and I add some beauty, because that’s important too.

We’re lucky to have each other. Even when Especially when he talks in binary and I speak in images.