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.

Camping it up · fame and shame · Kids · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day 465: Maybe it’s Time.

I’m thinking maybe it’s time to go back to the supermarket.

Since we came back from the cottage last October, we’ve been using Click and Collect and Instacart to get our groceries, meaning that I haven’t been inside a supermarket in a very, very long time. I’d be happy to continue that trend if it weren’t for how annoyed I get at the Instacart shoppers for not knowing the store like I do.

I ordered some kosher marshmallows (because regular marshmallows usually have gelatin which is either derived from pigs or horses.) Instead of the ones I ordered, I got these rainbow-coloured—non-kosher—jumbo marshmallows. I’m pretty sure the Instacart shopper didn’t even think to ask someone whether the kosher marshmallows might be somewhere else (hot tip—they’re in the kosher aisle.) Part of me is thinking How would they know? while the other part thinks that if they offer the product on the website, their shoppers need to know where to find it. Is it really that hard?

I don’t actually enjoy grocery shopping, though. Maybe if I lower my standards—and indicate “no substitutions”—I could still be happy with Instacart or Click and Collect. It saves me at least three hours a week.


I was feeling stressed today (no reason, really) so I did some pointless crafting with K. I bought the kids lockable toolboxes to keep their personal items in at camp, but they all looked the same—ugly. My first instinct was to spray paint them, but it’s so humid and hot out that I’m not convinced the paint would cure (and there is no way I can handle spray paint fumes inside the house.)

What’s better and campier than spray paint? Duck Tape! I spent far too much time getting it just right, but the results were gratifying. I’ll share the before-and-after pics once K has sent them from her phone.


N’s birthday is this Wednesday. Because the kids have to be in quarantine for the two weeks before camp starts (all the campers have been asked to do so,) we can’t have his friends over for a party. If I’ve gone overboard with the cake and ice cream and cones and sundae toppings, it’s no more overboard than I went for everyone else’s pandemic birthdays. I just want his birthday to not suck. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Camping it up · Homeschool · Kids · The COVID files

Day 452: Packing

K accosted me this evening as I sat at my computer, about to start writing tonight’s post.

“Eema, you said we could talk about what stuff I need for camp that I don’t have yet.”

Right. I did say that. So we started going through the list.

Camp packing lists are tricky. On one hand, you really do need fourteen t-shirts because the laundry truck only comes once a week, so you have to have two full weeks of clothing (because one week’s will be at the laundry at any given time.) On the other hand, if there are things on the list that you don’t normally use, you might not need them at camp.

K balked at the fourteen pairs of socks. “I don’t even wear socks in the summer!” she pointed out.

“Then you don’t need fourteen pairs, do you?” I said reasonably. “Six or seven pairs will do, and one should be cozy just in case you have a couple of chilly nights.” Problem solved.

She moved on, “Four pairs of sweatpants? I don’t think I have any sweatpants. I don’t wear sweatpants.”

“Then don’t take them,” I said patiently. “Take comfy leggings instead.”

And so on, ad nauseum.

Shopping for this stuff is extra annoying this year: “non-essential” stores just opened a few days ago and can only have 15% of their normal (i.e. non-covid) capacity limit. This leads me to think I can expect long lineups just to get into the stores. Better to shop online, I think. Of course, that thinking is why my front hall looks like a shoe store specializing in Keens: we ordered a bunch of different sizes and styles online with the intention of returning the ones we don’t want. It’s a fine idea, but with six of us—four of whom are still growing—we ended up ordering a lot of shoes. And we’re not done yet.

The most annoying part of all this is that I’m carrying this mental load constantly, and I get distracted by it all the time. I’ve been writing this post for the past hour, because I keep suddenly thinking of a store to check for swimsuits, and then I’m off searching for a while before I remember that I have a post to write. But seriously, there’s a lot of stuff to get, and three kids to buy for, and it’s dominating my thoughts these days.

It’s a good thing the kids have enthusiastically (and diligently!) taken on the yearbook project. That’s one thing off my plate. I should delegate more often… maybe I should tell them to plan our upcoming travels and call it geography class.

bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · Fibro Flares · Sartorial stuff · The COVID files

Day 443: A pain in the…

My legs hurt. I mean they really, really, really hurt. I’m thrilled, though, because it’s not fibromyalgia pain. No, my leg muscles are killing me in the way any muscle protests overexertion. If I rest and then stand up, my legs scream at me; if I keep moving them, they gradually downgrade the screaming to a pitiful whine. Once I had figured this out, I committed to a six kilometre bike ride with R. My legs felt better while biking. Now that I’m sitting down they’ve decided to scream again, but that’s okay. As the song says, it hurts so good.

I forgot to tell you that the real winner of yesterday’s debacle was…

(drumroll)

My new pants. They were everything they promised to be: stretchy, comfortable, lightweight, and—best of all—aside from the patch of dirt on the back, dirt-resistant: after I had brushed them off with my hands I could have worn them to a restaurant with a nice blouse. I mean, if a restaurant near me was actually open, which reportedly won’t happen until at least June 14. Anyhow, my pants were so great that Mr. December noticed and asked me to buy him a similar pair.

(He probably wouldn’t have noticed my pants at all except that the shorts he was wearing had inferior pockets that didn’t hold his phone securely enough. I ended up with the important stuff in my (roomy, zippered) pockets. It was quite the role reversal, I tell you.)

In the meantime, we got the Keens sandals I ordered for everyone on Friday. After carefully measuring each person’s feet and matching the measurements up on the sizing guide, the shoes were all one size too big for their respective owners. So back they go, and we’ll have to try ordering a size down.

(Look, I get that shoe stores weren’t essential during the first wave of COVID, but it’s been fifteen months and my running shoes have holes in them. If they don’t open shoe stores soon, I’ll just have to hire my own personal courier to take care of all the back-and-forth returns and exchanges. I may be adept at online shopping, but I need to actually try on several pairs of running shoes before making my choice.)

On the whole I have to say that it wasn’t a terrible weekend as long as you don’t count the hike. The weather was nice and warm, the sun was shining, I had a lovely bike ride today, and the pain in my legs isn’t a fibro flare. In the words of my late neighbour, Olga, I am thankful.

blogging · The COVID files

Day 435: Nothing

“Nothing.”

It’s what the kids were doing alone in the pantry with their hands in a bag of chocolate chips.

“Nothing.”

It’s the disappointed sigh when we check the front porch for packages… for the seventh time in an hour.

“Nothing.”

It’s my go-to plan for the weekends.

“Nothing.”

It’s what’s bothering us.

“Nothing.”

It’s the actual content of this blog post.


In case you missed it in the title, today is day four hundred and thirty-five since Ontario’s first COVID lockdown began. That’s 435 days of daily blog posts. That’s a lot of content.

It’s not easy to write a post every day. I’ve accepted the fact that some posts are going to be absolutely marvellous, but that most of what I write will probably be prosaic at best and filler at worst.

It’s not that it’s hard to think of things to say—I have plenty to say, believe me—but it’s hard to make time to write something well. And some of my best ideas have been simmering on the back burner for months, waiting until I have the time and inclination to write a really good post about them. So tonight, instead of one of those posts (how we talk to kids about food, why retail is for suckers, and the upsides of social media) I’m just venting.

Venting? About what?

Nothing.