bikes planes and automobiles · Just the two of us · Keepin' it real · The COVID files · Travelogue · Vietnam · Worldschooling

Day 1076: Where the Buffalo Roam

Our cleanup after Saturday’s fire was thorough. We even threw out any open packages of food (this is a great reason not to have open shelving in the kitchen) because the sand from the fire extinguisher was absolutely everywhere. As you might imagine, we were left with very little food in the house; we ate at restaurants for the rest of the weekend—in between cleanup efforts.

Everyone was exhausted this morning, but we forged ahead with school anyway. The sky was overcast and it drizzled on and off all day; but despite the weather, Mr. December and I rode our bikes down to the Western-food supermarket to stock up on groceries.

You know what’s weird? Even though Hoi An has an impressive number of bike paths and special lanes, Google Maps insists that there’s no cycling information. To find a route that didn’t go down all the major streets I had to ask Google for walking directions. Once we crossed over the river, we were on car-free paths until the last block before the store. Idyllic rice paddies stretched out all around us, water buffalo grazed, and motorcycles honked as they zipped past us.

I went to the housewares store next to the supermarket to pick up a few things this house lacks—cleaning cloths, shampoo, and tea towels, among other things—and the young woman at the counter asked me why I wasn’t cold wearing just a long-sleeve t-shirt (for the record, it was 20 degrees celsius at the time.) Anyhow, I responded that as a Canadian, I see 20 degrees as slightly cool summer weather. She looked at me incredulously, shook her head, and shivered.

Our ride was about 10K, round trip. On the way back we biked along the riverfront path that goes right past our house. It looks like someone had grand plans for this neighbourhood—the stone path lined with palm trees, the iron railing at the edge, and the many smaller paths leading from the river to the street at regular intervals all suggest an upscale neighbourhood—before COVID came in, shut everything down, and got rid of all the tourists. It’s a shame—it would have been stunning, with the view of the river. I wonder who will restart the project, and when?

It seems that I demonstrated poor judgment tonight: in an effort to be efficient and not mess up too many pots, I put the pasta and the sauce in the rice cooker together. It worked beautifully—but apparently N doesn’t like the sauce, so he stood up and walked out of dinner because there was no plain pasta for him. Oops. That’ll learn me.

This week’s challenge: find a place to dry our laundry that doesn’t leave it smelling like mildew. Today I tried hanging it from the back edge of the metal stairs to the roof. After ten hours, it’s still damp. Why doesn’t anybody sell clotheslines in this town?

Keepin' it real · The COVID files · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 888: House Guests

Mr. December’s cousins are visiting from Montreal, and we’ve invited them to stay with us. We love having guests—we built this house so we could fill it with people—and hachnassat orchim (welcoming guests) is a Jewish value we both feel strongly about.

That said, we haven’t had house guests since COVID—more accurately, we haven’t had house guests (except for a sleepover party or two) since before our renovation (which started in 2017.) I guess it makes sense that we weren’t quite equipped for it, at least not in the way I wanted to be.

We’re fine for beds, and there are plenty of sheets and duvets in the house. But wait—people need pillows, too! I had to dig through N’s loft to find those, because he seems to have commandeered every pillow that wasn’t already in someone’s bed. Truth be told, he has a lovely cozy nest up there… or had. It’s now four pillows less cozy (not that it matters—he’s away at camp.)

“Synthetic or down?” I asked as I surveyed the mountain of pillows hiding under N’s pride of stuffed lions.

“Synthetic… preferably one that’s pretty flat, that’s been squished a lot,” was the answer.

I tossed aside a few plump down cushions and came up with a sadly flat old throw pillow. “Like this?”

“Perfect! That’s just like the one I use at home!”

I finished expanding and making up E’s bed, turned around, and noticed there was no place for my guests to put their clothes. Or their bags. Every surface in that room is covered with American Girl doll paraphernalia. The closet is full of E’s clothes, and I didn’t think to empty any shelves.

Good thing these guests are as laid back as I am. “We don’t bother unpacking,” one of them said, “so I just need somewhere to park the suitcase.”

I surreptitiously swept all the clutter off E’s desk and nudged it aside with my foot while gesturing to the suitcase and desk, in that order.

At least some things are ready and waiting for guests to use, right where they’re meant to be. When I was asked “Where can I find a towel so I can take a shower?” I was able to say, “Linen closet—the one with the black doors.” See? We’re so ready for guests. But just in case, I called up the stairs:

“Better make sure it’s an adult size towel before you start your shower!”

The COVID files · Travelogue · whine and cheese

Day 759: Rules

Sometimes, rules make no sense. With COVID measures, “sometimes” gets upgraded to “frequently”. I’ve been researching the COVID-related entry requirements for Israel, and it took me a while to understand what they meant for us. It took me no time at all to be frustrated with the rules, though.

Here’s what I was finally able to piece together:

We have to present a pre-flight negative PCR or Antigen test. But we don’t have to if we have a positive test taken within the last three months. What does three months mean? I wonder. It could be ninety days or three calendar months. And if my test was February 10, is May 10 within three months or after three months? Could they not just give me a number of days?

That last question is relevant because three of us have positive test results from February 10. Our flight departs Toronto on May 10 and lands in Israel on May 11. Do we qualify for the exemption or not?

Regardless of whether or not we need the pre-flight test, we have to be tested upon arrival—and isolate for 24 hours or until our test results come back. What’s the rationale behind allowing people to bypass one test (supposedly because they could still get a residual positive) but making them take another? Does the flight magically change the likelihood of a false positive? I don’t get it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to testing; it’s consistency and clarity that I care about.

Speaking of consistency and clarity, I’m finding AirBnB to be trickier than expected. It seems that Israeli hosts don’t use the terms “double bed” and “twin bed” the same way we do in North America. The majority of the time I see double or twin beds listed, for example, the photograph shows two single beds pushed together to form a king. Not always, though: the two-singles-making-a-king arrangement is more common in Jerusalem than in Tel Aviv. In practical terms, this means I have to do some sleuthing to figure out whether an apartment will meet our needs, instead of just skimming the listing like I usually do. No wonder the planning feels like it takes forever.

snarky · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day 741: Are they for real?

I got three identical phone calls yesterday. They all started like this: “Hi, I’m calling from the Government of Canada about your child’s recent entry into Canada…” and went on to ask questions about vaccination status, whether we were isolating, and so forth.

Isn’t it wonderful that our government is checking to make sure that we’re not a public health threat, and that we’re isolating (which we don’t have to do, more on that in another paragraph) after we’ve been back in the country for five whole days? I’m not saying that quarantines for travelers necessarily do anything (there’s plenty of COVID here; we don’t need to import it from abroad,) but if they did, you don’t want people walking around for almost a week without the correct public health guidance… do you? Think of all the germs we could have spread by now!

Oh, but it gets better.

One of the agents who called me asked whether we had presented proof of a negative COVID test when entering the country.

“No,” I said, “we presented a positive test from a month and a half ago.”

“Oh!” She sounded flustered. “In that case you have to quarantine for fourteen days, and do a day one and day eight test…”

“Let me stop you there,” I interjected. “The rules say that you can present a positive test from 10-180 days prior to arrival in Canada, in lieu of a negative test.”

Silence… and then, “Um, I’m going to have to check that. Please hold.”

It only took a minute or two before the agent got back on the phone and said, “You’re absolutely correct. I didn’t know that about the positive tests, actually. Thanks for telling me.”

My friends, there are maybe four rules that pertain to COVID tests when crossing the border. These agents have one job: to verify that travelers have complied with the law. I repeat, THEY HAVE ONE JOB! How do they not know the rules?

“And that,” I told my children as I hung up, “is why it’s helpful to know what the rule is, where it comes from, and to be able to use the actual phrasing. If I had been wishy-washy or hadn’t known, that agent would have barrelled ahead with a whole bunch on unnecessary requirements.”

I told the second agent who called that I have four kids, and could she please just go through all of them with me so I don’t have to do the same thing four times over. She said no, as there was no way for the system to link children to the siblings with whom they traveled; I’d just have to wait for the calls to roll in.

And roll in they did. I took the first call on my car’s handsfree setting while picking up an iced capp from the Tim Hortons drive through; the second one came when I was at Lowes, explaining different kinds of silicone to my friend at the pro desk; I actually missed the third one; and the fourth came when I was about to check out at Len’s Mill Store, forcing me to wander the aisles while trying not to be snarky with the agent (because she’d probably had this conversation far more than just four times, and not always with someone as polite as I am.)

Before hanging up, each agent reminded me that should my children develop symptoms of COVID, I must isolate them immediately and cease all personal contact with them. Are these people for real? Maybe you can do that with a teenager, but try explaining to a four-year-old why they have to stay in one room and why they won’t get any hugs for ten days. Not gonna happen. Did anyone who created those guidelines have children, know someone with children, or remember being a child themselves? Clearly not, unless those instructions were meant to be comic relief (to be fair, they did make me laugh.)

I feel for these government employees—I really do. But is a little efficiency, common sense, and background knowledge too much to ask from the people who run this country?


I was afraid you’d say yes.

family fun · Homeschool · The COVID files

Day 711: Parkour

Is it just me, or should this post be accompanied by Slurpees for everyone?

Righto. It’s been seven hundred and eleven days since the first Toronto COVID shutdown began. Definitely the longest two weeks (to flatten the curve) of my life—and I thought the IVF two-week-wait was bad!

We left the house today. This is big news, since we usually just stay in the house. A local homeschool group had organized an afternoon at a parkour gym, so we went.

Two out of four kids loved it; one said it was “okay”; and one cried. Guess which was which? I’d like to say you’d be pleasantly surprised, but there are no surprises here. My kids are nothing if not consistent.

It’s not E’s fault that she didn’t have much fun: a lot of the obstacles that she wanted to climb were simply too high for the length of her reach. She also said there was nobody to play with, which I found odd since there were two girls whom she plays with at the weekly park meet-up. Maybe those girls are just that little bit taller and so better able to climb the obstacles? I don’t know. I promised E that next time we go, she’s allowed to stay home and do something else.

R was in her element: she is one strong and coordinated kid. She leaped up onto high podiums and swung across bars like she’d been born doing it.

N was lukewarm on the experience until he found the martial arts area with a rubber-tire dummy and wooden swords to hit it with; then he was a happy camper.

K loved it. “It’s like a playground for big kids, if playgrounds didn’t suck,” she told me on the way home.

(There’s something so refreshingly direct about teenagers, isn’t there?)

bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · The COVID files

Day 710: Perfunctory

It feels like a cop-out to just not post tonight. I mean, I could, and maybe it would be better to skip a night but maintain a higher quality of posts. Unfortunately (for you) I’m posting anyway.

I woke up tired today, after a ten-hour sleep last night. So did Mr. December. I suspect this is just a little parting gift from Covid, as I’ve heard similar things from other people. Anyhow, I’ve been dragging all day today. School was a bunch of videos—and then some history notebooking, to consolidate a bit of knowledge. I didn’t force instrument practice.

On the upside, I finally did something about getting my car repainted. It’s a known defect with 2012 and 2013 Hondas, apparently, that the paint job flakes and peels spontaneously. I don’t care what my car looks like—in fact, when it looks junky I can feel certain that nobody will try to steal it—but if rust sets in, it’ll be driving on borrowed time. So we’re getting it repainted while we’re away in Mexico.

Five more sleeps until we get on the plane. If they’re like last night’s sleep, we’re talking about fifty hours of rest between now and the weekend. Surely I should feel better by then. And if the sleep doesn’t do it, maybe the sunshine will.

The COVID files · whine and cheese · Worldschooling

Day 707: Hoops

We’re travelling again soon. Our flight to Mexico is routed through the U.S., and since we recently recovered from COVID (and might still test positive, apparently,) we need to show our positive tests along with a “letter of recovery” to the American officials. For a connection that takes under two hours.

Depending on where in the world you are, you might not be aware that getting an appointment to see our doctor for something non-urgent can take weeks (if not longer,) and at any rate our doctors have better things to do right now than write a letter that says, “Yep, she had COVID and now she’s symptom-free.” I mean, really? If I’m handing you my positive test and it’s from four weeks ago, why isn’t that good enough?

It gets better: K and N’s positive tests were paid for by the Ministry of Health, so their results show on the online portal. However, there’s no “print” function in the portal. I could print a screenshot, but it wouldn’t help: the patient’s last name and health card number are hidden. Because why would you need a printed copy of your test, right? So I have to call the pharmacy where they were tested and see if I can get a hold of a copy of the results that they received.

The rest of us have a PDF of our test results that includes our passport numbers, so we’re okay. Except for Mr. December. For some reason his passport number isn’t on his… so we have to fix that, too.

Is there any scientific evidence that these hoops we’re jumping through actually help to limit the spread of COVID? Or is said hoop-jumping supposed to act as a deterrent to would-be travelers?

birthing babies · parenting · The COVID files

Day 703: Expertise

Good friends of mine just had a baby. I love babies. They’re probably my favourite age to parent, and definitely where my most competent parenting lies—too bad that’s all in the past for me.

Anyhow, I offered my expertise, should they want it. Two days ago E and I hopped on a video call with them to demonstrate how to carry the baby in a ring sling (the only sling we still have is a child-sized one, so I used E and her baby doll as models.) This morning I got a message asking if I had time to help them a bit more, because they still didn’t quite have the hang of it. I offered to come over (they live four blocks away) and demonstrate for them.

Their house may be only four blocks from mine, but driving over there (my first choice, given my recent fatigue) is an agony because their neighbourhood is a warren of one-way streets (designed to deter through-traffic.) It was sunny and six degrees out (six! above zero! so warm!), so I figured I’d walk over there. How bad could it be? It’s just four blocks.

The walk over there was fine. I arrived, masked up, scrubbed my hands, changed my shirt, and spent a while sharing all the babywearing tips I could think of. I also got to cuddle a teeny-weeny baby, which is so therapeutic.

Mired as I am in the depths of homeschooling a teenager, two tweens, and a seven-year-old—an experience which often leaves me feeling unsure of my approach—I really enjoyed feeling competent at parenting, even if it was just for demonstration purposes. I suppose once I’ve guided all of my kids through teenagehood I might feel that I’m somewhat expert at parenting older kids too. For now, it’s nice to be reminded of what it feels like to know what I’m doing.

The walk home was all slightly uphill, and after the first block my legs were tired already (after a month of being sick at home I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.) When I got home I staggered to my hammock chair with a Kobo and a water bottle and didn’t leave it for an hour. Now it’s almost 9:00 p.m. and my head feels like it’s stuffed full of cotton, my legs feel heavy and achy, and I’m not even sure if what I’m typing makes any sense. But in case there was any doubt, helping my friends with their newborn was worth it. I regret nothing.

The COVID files

Day 701: I missed 700!?!

Of all the days to skip a post, I had to choose Day 700. That post would’ve practically written itself, right?

I’m super tired. Yesterday I slept for most of the day and then I slept all night. And when I woke up this morning… tired again, plus things are achy.

On the positive side, Mr. December took the kids to the Science Centre today. They loved it.

I’m looking forward to more homeschool meetups, more field trips, more outdoor education, less hanging around in the house. Now I just have to get the energy to do all those things.

crafty · family fun · Fibro Flares · Keepin' it real · Kids · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day 695: Scribbles and Schadenfreude

“I’m fatigued,” Mr. December admitted. “Everything is just so… relentless.”

He wasn’t talking about COVID fatigue. He’s talking about that deep-soul weariness where we’re sick of everything and desperately need a break. And I’m feeling it too, in addition to the post-COVID fatigue. I’m simultaneously loathing the computers for the amount of time the kids spend on them, and thankful to Roblox for keeping the kids occupied when I can’t bring myself to interact with other human beings. Because—let’s face it—I’ve been interacting closely with the same five human beings every single day for the last six hundred and ninety-five days. That’s a lot of days.

I feel so mentally fried that board games feel too complicated. I don’t want to do any more puzzles. And sitting at the computer often makes my fatigue worse, not better, no matter whether I’m working or playing or writing on it. It was minus 11 degrees celsius out today, and my legs are hurting (fibro pain, not COVID aches) and the cold makes the pain worse, so no outdoor fun is happening for us.

I had no idea what to do this afternoon. To avoid the decision, I napped for an hour, but—wouldn’t you know it—there are several hours in an afternoon.

A book in the living room caught my eye. It’s called “1, 2, 3, Draw!” and consists of drawing prompts in the form of photographs and illustrations. Like, it has a page of identical snail shells, and you can turn them into… anything, really. I got to work, and soon the kids were sitting around me, shouting suggestions.

“Turn the duck into a pirate!”

“No, a cowboy! Riding a horse!”

“You should do a giant horse eating that box of matches!”

“Turn the hacksaw into a horse!”

I don’t know why horses have become so popular over here. Maybe it’s because they’re an animal that I truly cannot draw well, and the kids find that hilarious. A little bit of schadenfreude now and then isn’t going to hurt anyone, I guess.

Except for those poor ear-less, one-eyed horses, which I didn’t include in the photos below, because I really am terrible at drawing them.