Keepin' it real · Kids · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day 567: The Party’s Over

For fifteen months, nobody in my house got sick. It was amazing. I only know this intellectually, though—I don’t remember what it was like at all. We got our first post-COVID cold when the kids came back from camp in August; as of today, three of us have our second cold of the past two years.

Miraculously, I’m not one of the three. E started with sneezing and a runny nose two days ago, and yesterday R’s nose was stuffy (different from her usual allergy symptoms.) Last night K said she wasn’t feeling well; today she’s been droopy and miserable all day. She even napped on the couch this afternoon, which I haven’t seen her do since she had mono in the fall of ’18.

I can feel that my body is fighting it, though, and I can only hope that sleep and rest will allow me to bypass sickness this time around.

R’s birthday party—she’s turning ten—was supposed to be this weekend. It’s now been cancelled, and she’s kind of bummed out about it. “This is the worst birthday ever, and that’s making it the worst year ever,” she said morosely. I can sympathize. I can also remind her that this year is about to turn awesome, since we’re leaving for Costa Rica in under two weeks, but I don’t think that will make her feel any better this weekend. I should probably just get her a cake and line up a whole lot of fun stuff we can do together until we’re past her birthday.

DIY · Homeschool · Kids · The COVID files

Day 560: Photo I.D.

A new rule came into effect in Ontario recently: to go to a movie, eat inside at a restaurant, go to the gym, and probably a handful of other situations, one must show proof of vaccination and photo I.D. This is all fine and good, until you consider that this applies to everyone who is eligible for vaccination: that is, ages twelve and up. What twelve-year-old has photo I.D.? I wondered.

I knew that Ontario had some kind of photo I.D. for people who don’t have a driver’s license, so I googled that to see if I could get one for K. Nope—it’s only for people ages sixteen and up. Our provincial health cards don’t have photos on them for anyone under sixteen, either. What’s a young teen (who wants to see a movie) to do?

It occurred to me that a non-homeschooled twelve-year-old might have a student card with their photo on it; too bad homeschooled kids don’t get photo student cards… or do they?

Since we’re talking about how I solved a problem, the solution should be obvious to those who know me: as with everything else, when I couldn’t find what we needed, I made it myself… sort of.

I started with a search for “inkjet compatible plastic I.D. cards blank” and came up with a bunch of options for a thermal printer. Not helpful. But the internet algorithms came through for me and suggested that Zazzle might have what I needed. Boy, did they ever.

That’s how I ended up designing BFHS student and staff I.D. cards and having them printed and shipped to us. They weren’t even particularly expensive, which is why I also made one for our mascot, BukBuk. I invented student numbers for each kid (using gematriya, the art of assigning numbers to the letters of the Hebrew alef-bet) and gave them all an expiry date of 2027—it would be annoying to have to print them every single year, right?

Anyhow, our cards arrived and everyone was pleased with them. Then, on the news, they announced that people under the age of sixteen could use their health card as I.D. even though there’s no photo… so my project was basically useless.

Oh, well. At least they look cool.

Image description: Two nearly-identical cards with our school logo in the top left, “Student” or “Staff” in the top right, a photo, and the cardholder’s name. The one on the left is K’s, and the one on the right is Bukbuk’s.

family fun · mental health · The COVID files

Day 517: Planning

One of the joys of homeschooling is that we don’t have to be constrained by the usual school vacation dates. Why, then, are we trying to book over the December break?

We weren’t going to. We were planning to travel in October-November, hit a worldschooling retreat in early December, and then head home. But from a mental health perspective, I’m most in need of sunshine when my Seasonal Affective Disorder is at its worst: in January and February. October and November are absolutely fine for me, and the weather isn’t even all that cold yet.

I’d forgotten how many different details have to be juggled when planning a long trip. Now that I think of it, I realize that when I planned the UK trip that COVID killed, I had all four kids attending school (read: I had all day, every day to work on it without interruption.) Trying to do this work in fits and starts is hard—I have to spend ten minutes each time just recalling where I had left off and what I was going to research next.

So here I’ve sat for much of the day, looking at AirBnb’s and so many different flight options that my head is spinning. I should probably quit for the night.

crafty · family fun · Independence · Kids · The COVID files

Day 503: While I was Sleeping

Good news, everyone! COVID test came back negative… which is neither surprising nor news, I admit, but it’s still good.

I vaguely remember, in the before times, that getting a cold used to mean walking around with a box of tissues but otherwise going about one’s day. Perhaps it’s because my immune system has been allowed to atrophy during this period of relative isolation, but this cold has knocked me flat. I spent most of the day dozing on and off in the back porch hammock, but at four in the afternoon I finally got tired of being woken up by construction noises and retreated to my bed. Next time I opened my eyes, four hours had passed.

Happily, life went on in my absence. The chicken breasts got grilled, dinner got served, and the table was even (mostly) cleared by the time I came downstairs. R quickly agreed to put E to bed so I wouldn’t expose her to my germs unnecessarily.


Now that they’re back from camp, I’m starting to realize how much I missed my kids last month. I missed R’s excited energy and generous spirit; I missed N’s need for hugs; I definitely missed K’s ability to disappear into the basement and come up later with some extraordinary craft project.

Tonight, R asked me how much I paid for the T-shirts I bought her from the craft store.

“Five dollars,” I responded. “Why?”

“Because K is downstairs painting one of them,” she explained.

As it happens, K made a very plain t-shirt much prettier. I commissioned her to paint a white baseball cap for E to take to camp; I also let her in on the location of my secret stash of white t-shirts (normally reserved for tie-dye.)

The house is buzzing with activity again, even while I’m sleeping. I love it.

Camping it up · crafty · Kids · The COVID files

Day 500: Wait, what?

It has apparently been five hundred days since the first COVID shutdown began in Toronto. Whoa. That’s a long time.

I remember last June, chatting on the phone with a friend and commenting that since we figured that school would be a bit of a write-off this year, we were going to homeschool our kids. Her response was incredulous:

“You really think we’re still going to be dealing with this in September?”

Yup. We were. And we still are. Crazy, huh?


I packed a camp bag for E: she starts full-day camp tomorrow. It made me realize how much stuff we’re missing because we’re homeschooling. Things like a lunch bag, a backpack big enough for a two towels and said lunch bag, and a… mask lanyard? What the heck is a mask lanyard? I wondered.

A Google search later, I realized I had this lanyard thing under control. I went downstairs to the Makery and found a length of yellow grosgrain ribbon in one bin, then grabbed a few plastic snaps and set to work with the snap pliers. Three minutes later, I had a lanyard. Ah, the magic of the Makery.

Image description: A yellow and green striped ribbon with yellow snaps on each end.

My brother and his two kids are in town right now, so we’ve had a few sleepovers for the kids and their cousins. Today there were six kids running around my house and I have to say that my niece and nephew fit right in: she attached herself to one of the hammock chairs and announced, “I’m a chyrsalis!” in her adorable five-year-old voice, and he went down to the Makery and came back upstairs with a piece of upholstery foam and a plan to make his own squishy toy shaped like a Minecraft sword.

Smart, cute, and they know what the Makery is for. We must be related.

Camping it up · Keepin' it real · Kids · The COVID files

Day 489: Like Normal

My kids’ camp has passed the fourteen-day mark, and everyone at camp tested negative for COVID; now they can all put away their masks, sing together, hug their friends. For the first time in 489 days, everything feels normal (the old normal, not the “new” one everyone’s always talking about.) Lucky them.

Here at home things feel pretty normal too. My to-do list is long and getting longer by the day, it seems. I’ve not accomplished what I had hoped to in the past two weeks. It might be time to throw half my “to-do” list into a “to-don’t” list instead.

(Do you like that one? I misread my friend’s post on facebook as being about her “to-don’t” list and we’ve now decided to start using it as a phrase.)

Over the past six years, I’ve had friends look at my kids and say something like, “I don’t know how you do it with four!” My stock response is that actually, four kids are easier than one. And now that I’ve had an only child for two weeks straight, I can confirm it. Unless E has a playdate, she’s clamoring for my attention even when she knows that I’m trying to work. And really, I’d rather be giving her my attention than working on trip planning and curriculum planning and the five dozen little odd jobs around the house. Sadly, sometimes I do have to buckle down and work.

I’m thankful that E has her friend who lives on our block, whose parents are as cool with spontaneity as I am, and who is free all day, every day. They’ve had epic playdates lasting four, five, even six hours of continuous play and absolutely zero conflict. It’s beautiful watching them play (eavesdropping on their play, really); it may not be an entire mask-free summer camp, but it’s E’s small taste of life being a bit more normal.

DIY · education · family fun · Homeschool · Jewy goodness · The COVID files · Worldschooling

Day 484: Curriculum Decision

After lots of research into ready-made curricula, I’ve made my decision:

I’m going to create a curriculum myself.

It’s not that there aren’t lots of fabulous-looking curricula out there; there are, in as many different flavours as there are approaches to education. More, even.

But Mr. December and I have been working on our travel plans (for when we can realistically travel again,) and it looks like our most likely option would be Central and South America, since Costa Rica is open with no restrictions and Ecuador has no restrictions for those who are fully vaccinated (children too young to be vaccinated take on the status of their parents, so we’re good to go.) And as long as we’re there, might as well check out the Galapagos. You know, before climate change and tourism muck the whole thing up and there’s nothing to see.

With that decided, all of the homeschooling pieces have fallen into place. Of course we should learn about the geography and history of the places we’ll be travelling. Olmecs, Aztecs, Mayans, Incas. And then when we get to the Conquistadors and start talking about the monarchy that financed them, we’ll naturally be talking about the Spanish Inquisition (nobody expects it, but there it is) and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. From there, we can talk about the Sephardi Jews: customs, music, food, and language (let’s learn some Ladino!)

I’ve gotten really into the planning; I have the mind map to prove it. I divided it into curriculum areas—Language, Food, Geography, History, Music, Art, Math and Science—and jotted down everything I could think of to learn about them. There’s even a separate section for the Galapagos, highlighted in blue.

I’ve compiled a long playlist of Crash Course History videos and the like to introduce various topics. Our public library gives us free access to Mango Languages, which we’ll use for learning Spanish and maybe Ladino (if they have it.)

So that’s it: I’m dumping the premade curricula and going with Mesoamerican and South American studies. This is going to be so much fun!

family fun · Keepin' it real · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day 482: I don’t trust them.

I’ve been avidly watching the weather forecast, looking for a clear day to take E kayaking at the beach or maybe even to a waterpark. And for the last week and a half, my phone has showed me the same sort of thing:

Image description: screenshot from the Weather app on an iPhone. The forecast shows rain or thunderstorms almost every day next week.

This screenshot is from tonight, but it’s pretty representative of the forecast I saw last week at this time, too. Rain. Rain, rain, storms, no sun, rain.

(And yes, it’s a mirror image of how you probably see your phone, because Hebrew is read from right to left. I set Hebrew as the main language on my phone so that I could keep up my reading skills and expand my vocabulary. In a happy coincidence, it also makes it hard for the kids to use my phone. But if they really, really want to use it, they can learn some more Hebrew.)

My problem isn’t the rain. I mean, sure, it’s not what I would have wanted, but it’s not The Weather Network’s fault that it’s rainy. What I am mad at them for is that their forecast is just plain wrong, or at least misleading.

Every day this week was supposed to be rainy—no sun in the forecast. What actually happened was that we had a few very nice, warm, moderately sunny days; several of those days had about an hour of rain, but that was it. I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I think when I look at a forecast like the one in the above picture.

Because of the forecast, I didn’t plan any outings. Worse yet, I decided to go get my second COVID shot this week because I figured we’d be stuck in the house anyway, and I could cuddle up to E and watch Spongebob just as easily when I’m feeling ill as when I’m well. No sense wasting a beautiful summer day letting my immune system do its thing when I could do it on a rainy one instead, right?

As it happened, the weather was reasonably nice the day after I got my shot. E asked me to go for a bike ride that I was pretty sure I couldn’t manage; that’s when I called my parents and asked them to rescue E from boredom and me from having to parent. Thank God for my parents (although they’re setting the bar pretty high for me to meet when I’m a grandparent one day!)

So now I’m looking at next week’s forecast—cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms—and wondering whether I can trust it. Should I just go ahead and plan the outings anyway? Do everything last-minute? I don’t know what I should do. What I do know is that I just can’t trust The Weather Network any more.

Camping it up · family fun · Kids · lists · The COVID files

Day 474: A little *too* quiet

I don’t remember this kind of silence in our house, like, ever. Which is silly, because there have been times when the kids have all gone to the grandparents, and there have been times when Mr. December has taken all four kids out for upwards of seven hours, but for some reason this silence feels different. It lacks the tension of “How long til they burst through that door?” because I know that the three big kids won’t be back until July is over.

We drove them up to camp (no bus this year because of COVID,) which was about two hours of driving. Not far from camp, we detoured to a playground for the girls to enjoy some swinging for the last time til camp is over (I think.)

“I don’t think we’ll have time for hugs when we get to camp,” I told the kids. “They’ll be trying to move cars along as quickly as possible. So I want my hugs now, please.”

It’s a good thing I got those hugs before we arrived at camp, because they were set up for maximum efficiency: three cars at a time came to a stop in front of one building to offload anything the campers couldn’t carry to their cabins, then advanced to another spot for said campers to get out of the car. Counsellors were milling around with signs proclaiming their cabin number, coming over to greet their campers and spirit them away to the cabins.

My kids were so eager to get out that I had to remind them to stop pushing and give N a minute to gather all his stuff (he was seated right next to the door.) They hopped out of the van like paratroopers jumping out of a plane—one after another, all wearing backpacks—and walked away with their counsellors. None of them turned to look back. None of them said goodbye. I guess that’s a very good thing.

A friend asked me what I plan to do for the next three weeks. My answer was a long list of home maintenance, homeschool planning, and other tasks; also I do still have a six-year-old here for the month (she spent the day out with my parents today.) I’ve often felt that E misses out on activities that she would enjoy because they’re too easy or boring for the big kids, so this is an opportunity to go places and do things that E wants.

She has a list:

  • Treetop trekking
  • Swimming
  • Bike rides
  • Kayaking at the beach
  • Backyard playdates with friends
  • Sleepovers at grandparents’ homes

In case you couldn’t tell, she’s pretty excited about being the only child, with both parents and all four grandparents available to dote on her. Just when I thought she couldn’t be any more spoiled with attention…

Tomorrow I’m going to figure out a schedule that balances work I need to do with fun I need to have. Tonight I’m giving myself the night off.

Camping it up · crafty · The COVID files

Day 470: Green Plums and Gel Pens

We almost got rid of our plum tree this year; thanks to a landscaper who hasn’t returned any of our emails, it’s still standing and it’s full of plums for the first time in years.

Thanks to our time volunteering in the community orchard, I knew that having plums all clustered together like a bunch of grapes is likely to yield worse fruit than if we thinned them out; so yesterday Mr. December, R, E, and I picked off some of the overcrowded fruit.

We decided to save them and see if they’ll ripen on their own. Failing that, I’ll be looking for a good recipe featuring green plums—anybody ever make green plum jam or green plum chutney?


The past few days have been a blur of packing for camp—and making last-minute Amazon purchases. Yesterday my brain was so full of camp stuff (and my belly was so full of yummy Shabbat food) that I totally forgot to write my blog post. Sorry ’bout that.

Remembering the days when I wrote my friends long “bus letters”—full of jokes and word games—to read on the bus to camp, I decided to write letters for my kids before they even leave. They’re not taking a bus (thanks a lot, COVID,) and I’m not sure they’ll want to read it in the car with us, but I still had fun writing them.

I rediscovered our black lined paper while searching for stationery, and I found the gel pens to go with it. Sadly, partway into K’s letter the gel pens stopped working. I did what I always do: turned to the internet and googled my problem. Once again, the internet didn’t disappoint, and after alternately holding the pen nibs over a steaming kettle and scribbling with them, the ink started flowing again.

In the end, I wrote nine pages in total, three for each kid. I filled the letters with complete and utter nonsense for the most part; I could say I’m trying to model how you can write to someone even if you don’t have much to say, but the truth is that’s just how I roll. My letters are pretty stream-of-consciousness, like a Toni Morisson novel but with less sex and more punctuation.

And now, to hide the letters somewhere in their bags.