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

Day 664: Still alive, still here.

Today we all woke up grumpy and exhausted, so instead of our usual lessons we opted for watching educational videos. Mr. December and K watched some math stuff (I really can’t be any more specific than that—I wasn’t there) and I watched Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. The kids learned about the origins of the universe, the history of the cosmos, DNA, and evolution. Not bad for a morning of school, right?

Mr. December and I got our COVID boosters yesterday. The pop-up clinic was so empty we decided to return today with the three younger kids. Two out of the three have now had their shots. I don’t want to name and shame the child involved, so I’m not telling the story of how our afternoon went south; I’m mentioning it by way of telling you that by the time dinner rolled around, I was irrationally angry at said child, as well as at anyone else who dared ask me anything. I spent the rest of the evening alone in my room.

crafty · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · mental health · The COVID files

Day 660: I like my stuff.

It was dark this morning when we woke up—which would have been fine if it was 6:00 a.m., but it was already 10:00. It was truly dark, not just cloudy. Even Mr. December noticed.

I think I’ve seen the sun a total of three days out of the last three weeks. That is clearly not enough. Since my SAD was a major reason for us wanting to travel this winter, it seems obvious that we should go somewhere to get some sun. There’s just one problem, though: stuff.

I’m a minimalist when it comes to things like clothes (I own one pair of jeans, one leggings, and a pair of sweatpants,) shoes (we only took two pairs on our trip and that might have been one too many,) and makeup (none.) But when it comes to things, Mr. December and I tend to be maximalists (if that’s even a word. Is it? Who knows?). In our opinion, you can’t have too many books or musical instruments. It’s just not possible.

I’ve just finished rereading Gretchen Rubin’s Happier At Home, in which she suggests “making a shrine” to things you enjoy. If I understand her correctly, we’ve already done so: our library is a shrine to books and musical instruments, the makery is a shrine to arts and crafts of all sorts, and our attic is a shrine to swings and gymnastic apparatus.

(N was reading this over my shoulder and reminded me of the parchment paper shrine that is a running joke between K and Mr. December. No, I will not elaborate.)

These are things we use and enjoy every single day. Some people say things don’t make you happier; I think they’re wrong. I’m definitely happier when I can wander into the library and pick up an instrument without having to haul it out of the case; Mr. December gets happier just sitting in the library and looking at all the books; K, R, and the entire family are all happier because of the swings in the attic.

That’s why I’m having difficulty deciding to travel again. I loved our trip. Really. We packed minimal stuff, and it was fine for a while; but now that I’m here enjoying my home again, I’m loath to leave it.

Could I travel again but pack more stuff? Sure. I’ve done it before, when I took a sewing machine and a suitcase full of fabric to Barbados for a month-long stay. But do I want to? I don’t even know which stuff I’d choose. My viola, probably, and then some craft stuff—maybe the new markers, my drawing pencils, sketchbooks and paper… and then all the homeschooling stuff, which right now involves a lot of books that I can’t get on a Kobo. Oh, and a guitar.

My prediction: I’ll dither about this for long enough that it’s too late to go, either because of new COVID restrictions or because it’s started getting sunny again.

What do you predict?

ADHD · crafty · DIY · lists · Resorting to Violins · The COVID files

Day 648: Hyperfocus Hurts

I just went and practiced viola for maybe fifteen minutes. As practice goes, that’s extremely short—but I had to stop because of the pain in my left arm.

I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to keep practicing. It’s a classic case of ADHD hyperfocus: once I start something that I love, it’s very hard to stop. Yesterday I finally tore myself away from the instrument after forty-five minutes. Better quit while I’m not in pain, I thought to myself, but I caught myself inching towards the instrument cabinet several times again last night.

I guess yesterday’s practice session set me up for pain today, because ten minutes into today’s practice, my arm was starting to ache. It took me five full minutes to accept that maybe today wasn’t the day for another long practice session, however much I wanted it to be.

Know what’s as much fun as online shopping? Online browsing the library catalogue.

Seriously. Clicking “place hold” is even better than clicking “buy,” because it’s not costing me anything and I can click to my heart’s content. There might be a limit to the number of books I can put on hold at one time, but so far I’m up to thirty-one. Libraries are awesome—especially now that they’ve stopped charging fines for late returns. It’s supposed to be a temporary measure until COVID calms down, but I’m hoping Toronto follows the examples of Chicago, New York, Boston, and San Diego and just ditches fines permanently.

I’ve had ideas popping into my head all day about small projects I want to tackle. I should be listing them on my Trello page, but I’m too lazy to click over there, so I’m sharing it with you here instead:

  • Reupholster the storage ottoman in the living room (the faux leather is peeling.)
  • While we’re on the ottoman, install a puzzle shelf a few inches inside it, just a few inches below the top, so we have a place to leave puzzles that are in progress.
  • Organize a puzzle swap among my friends so that we can all have some new puzzles to work on.
  • Order the labels for the library.
  • Make the giant letters spelling out “Makery” for the makery wall. Right now the wall says, “welcome to the…” and whenever I see it I start humming “Welcome to the Rock” from Come From Away.
  • Work on N’s quilt.
  • Buy myself some new pajama pants. Also basic t-shirts. And socks.
  • Repot our spider plants in the new self-watering wall planters.

R and N are coming back from Florida tomorrow; they haven’t been home since October 20. This house is about to get a lot noisier. We’ll see whether I can get any work done when all four of the kids are in the house.

Apathy · Keepin' it real · mental health · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day 646: Blah.

We’re all feeling it. Sluggish, tired, and—dare I say—bored.

I know I’ve talked about it a lot, but I’m still surprised by what passes for “daylight” around here. I miss the sun already.

I think I’m doing everything right: eating well (i.e. protein, fruits, and veggies rather than just the sweet stuff my body thinks it’s craving,) going outside a couple of times a day for fresh air and exercise, having a current creative project to work on. Throw in some snuggling and laughs and more hugs, and I think I’ve got the right recipe for feeling good despite the dark.

And yet, I don’t. Feel good, that is. I feel totally blah. What’s more, so do Mr. December and K.

We did E’s day eight COVID test this morning, online: using the kit we were given at the airport last Sunday, with supervision via video conference, I swabbed her nose and put the whole kit together to send. Ten minutes later an Uber was at my door to collect the test sample and deliver it to the lab. I’ll say this much for our government: they actually managed to make testing pretty easy.

It’s nice to see them doing something intelligently, because that’s certainly not been my perception of other COVID- and testing-related decisions our government has made. Sometimes it seems that they haven’t bothered to rub two brain cells together.

Take the “random” testing on arrival at the airport, for example. Three of us were selected for testing, despite the fact that we had all tested negative twenty-six hours ago. I’m not saying we couldn’t have contracted COVID while in transit—of course we could have—but if we had, what is the likelihood it would show up less than fifteen hours after exposure to the virus? Those three tests were a waste of everyone’s time, taxpayers’ money, and my inclination to cheerfully cooperate with the government’s COVID-related demands.

K’s birthday is this Thursday; E’s is the following Tuesday. We’ve already given K her gift—a weighted blanket—but haven’t decided what to give E yet. I’m leaning towards getting her a Kobo of her own, because everytime I sit down to read on my Kobo, she comes along and begs for it so she can read her books.

I wonder if I can load a birthday card onto the Kobo for her? That would be cool…

bikes planes and automobiles · Keepin' it real · The COVID files

Day 624a: It’s All Good

Okay, it’s mostly good. We couldn’t get a flight any earlier than tomorrow evening, so I rescheduled our Galapagos flight for Monday morning. Avianca’s process was kind of slow, but they picked up the phone right away and the associate was very friendly.

We hit Walmart this morning to get bathing suits for K, N, and R, whose suits are in our checked luggage (still at the MIA airport, hopefully not MIA.) Mr. December and I borrowed swimsuits from his parents. This place has a huge pool and hot tub, which we enjoyed for a couple of hours before coming back to the apartment and ordering dinner from The Cheesecake Factory (the food was excellent.)

Tomorrow we’ll leave for the airport at 1:30, take another COVID test at the airport (because it will have been more than 72 hours since our last test,) and get on a plane to Guayaquil. Wish us luck.

bikes planes and automobiles · Costa Rica · Keepin' it real · The COVID files · Travelogue

Day 621: The rules, they are a-changin’

I’m trying not to follow the news too closely. I’ve heard there’s a new COVID variant called Omicron, and that’s about all I know; but we leave for Ecuador in two days, so American Airlines has been only too happy to give me the lowdown.

Instead of only the three unvaccinated children requiring an RT-PCR test, we all need one; instead of 3 days before our flight, the tests must be taken no more than one day prior to departure. There’s also a contact tracing form to fill out before we check in.

It’s not that any of these things is a big deal—they’re inconvenient at worst—but the speed with which the rules changed surprised me.

The kids had questions this afternoon:

Q: What if we’re not allowed back into Canada?
A: Won’t happen. They can’t turn citizens away at the border.

Q: Will we have to quarantine when we get home?
A: Maybe. Would you even notice? We spent most of the last 621 days in our house together, just the six of us. It’ll be like old times.

Q: Can I go on the screen?
A: No, you lost screen privileges. Also, WE’RE HAVING A CONVERSATION! Can you focus for, like, ten minutes?

Q: Will you buy me Skittles?
A: (sigh)

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.