family fun · Fibro Flares · Homeschool · The COVID files

Day 390: The End of an Era

We bought a TV this week—the very first one we’ve bought in almost 17 years of marriage.

Mr. December and I assembled the wall mount and set up the TV, then sat back to “test-watch” a few videos.

I felt vaguely dirty. After all, for a long, long time I’ve prided myself on the fact that we didn’t have a TV. And I still long for the days before we even had a family computer, when the kids played together for hours with things like legos and train sets. I long for the days before “Can I go on a screen?” became the most-asked question in my home.

If COVID hadn’t happened, maybe we wouldn’t have bothered with a TV. But there’s nowhere to go, and not much to do, and crowding around a 23″ computer monitor to watch videos was getting old. We also use screens a lot more often than we used to: Mr. December is using a biochemistry course that relies on lesson videos and I often use short videos that relate to what the kids are learning with me. It just didn’t make sense not to have a TV anymore.

I’m warming up to some of the possibilities that come with this TV, though. Things like being able to lie on the comfy couch and binge-watch Netflix during a fibro flare instead of turning two slipper chairs into a makeshift bed in front of my computer. The TV is also two floors below the bedrooms, so it’s possible that Mr. December and I could even have a date night down there after the kids’ bedtime. When I consider how much money we used to spend each time we went out to a movie together, well, it appears that the TV may have been a good investment, however little I wanted it.

bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · Kids · The COVID files · waxing philosophical

Day 382: Siblings and Friends

One of the greatest gifts the pandemic has given us, I often think, is that the kids relate to each other as friends. Sibling rivalry doesn’t seem to be much of a thing anymore (although it could just be in the last week or so; My memory for such things doesn’t go much farther back than that.) Instead I’ll glimpse moments where they’re encouraging, comforting, entertaining, and supporting each other—moments that are so sweet they take my breath away (or maybe I just need to use my blue puffer. Not sure about that one.)

Today we went on a family bike ride, the first one where E has ridden her own bicycle instead of being on a tandem trailer behind mine. She’s still a bit wobbly, but she rode three kilometres before we stopped to play at the park (and a final kilometre to get back home.) As the rear guard, I got to watch as R cycled alongside E, shouting encouragement and advice as they went.

“You can do it, E! We’re almost there!”

At the park R immediately climbed up a freestanding rock wall and then called to E to try it. As I spotted E from below, R called out pointers and persuaded E to keep trying when she wanted to quit. Eventually E made it to the top where R congratulated her and showed her the most secure place to sit up there.

After dinner I refused to give E more screen time. “Go do something else!” I instructed before sticking my nose back in my book. She came to me some minutes later with a dominoes game, asking how to play, when K sauntered into the room. I offhandedly suggested that K could play with E; after telling them the basic rules I went back to my reading. I thought K would play maybe one round with E—but they played four or five games before deciding to do something else. K spoke softly, patiently, and she treated E as an equal.

I store up these moments in my mind and in my phone, greedily, against the day when they go their separate ways, each with their own peer group. I often comment that it’s wonderful being married to my best friend; it’s pretty wonderful that the kids get to grow up as close friends, too.

blogging · family fun · The COVID files

Day 365: It’s day 365.

A year. Twelve months. Fifty-two weeks. Three hundred and sixty-five days. Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes (if Rent is to be believed.) We made it.

I made it. I blogged every single day (with three exceptions because I was unable to) for a year. I’m amazed at myself.

Oh yeah, and our family survived a year of lockdowns and thrived.

It’s been a year since our children walked out of school for the last time, and we’re still glad to be rid of it.

It’s been a year since I’ve hugged my friends, my cousins, and my in-laws. Since I’ve been at a party. Since I’ve eaten inside a restaurant.

It’s been one heck of a year.

Today was almost magical. The sun was shining and it was warm for a change, so the kids spent almost the entire day out on the trampoline. Mr. December and I sat down in the middle of the afternoon and played two full games of Wingspan, uninterrupted. I went for a walk in the ravine. And just when it seemed the day couldn’t get any better, Mr. December announced that we were having ice cream for dinner.

Yes, ice cream dinner, followed by an hour at the park. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Image description: four kids and two adults crowded together, all holding/eating ice cream.
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?

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

Day 357: I won’t stop now.

With the exception of (I think) three days, I have posted on this blog every day for almost a year. Even if I wanted to stop (and I don’t think I do,) it would make sense to keep going until day 365 so I can say I did a whole year.

My hands seem to have other ideas. My carpal tunnel syndrome is back with a vengeance and I’m pretty sure I should avoid typing as much as I can. There is dictation software, and I could try to use it, but my desk is on the landing overlooking the living and dining rooms; I’d feel a bit self-conscious knowing that everyone could hear what I’m dictating.

But it would be absolutely ridiculous to stop so short of the one-year mark… so I won’t. Instead I’ll warn you to expect shorter posts for the next week. After that, I’d feel okay about a short hiatus.

blogging · DIY · fame and shame · Sartorial stuff · The COVID files

Day 354: Where the Pockets Are

Interesting bit of trivia about yesterday’s post: the “rule” that inspired me to write about my rules didn’t even make it into the post because I forgot all about it. I was reminded tonight as we cleared the dinner table. Rule: every piece of cutlery that comes off the table, used or not, goes in the dishwasher—you never know who has licked what. That’s not really a concern anymore, though.

For someone who doesn’t really like fashion, I seem to spend a lot of time thinking about clothing. I’m pleased to report that I took in my dress from eShakti, and it now looks “much better” according to Mr. December. I have two pairs of pants with proper pockets that I need to take in, and I’m waiting for one more dress before I decide what all I need to return to Scott-e-Vest. You’ve been waiting patiently, though, so I wanted to update you on what clothes I’ve found, from where, and how big the pockets are.

Women’s Everyday Go To Pants from

My first purchase was “Women’s Everyday Go To Pants” from Columbia. I ordered two sizes so I could try them on and send one back. The Large looked great on my legs but gave me terrible muffin top. The XL fit my waist and hips perfectly but looked like parachute pants on my legs. But they have nice deep pockets including a zippered one large enough for my phone, so I’m going to keep the XL and take in the legs.

Margeaux Cargeaux Everyday pants from Scott-e-Vest

A friend tipped me off to Scott E Vest. They make clothes with so many pockets you could probably pack for a long weekend in the vests alone. As you browse the items, they tell you how many pockets there are in each design; I think they top out around 47 pockets. Anyhow, I ordered a fleece vest, a pair of nice-looking pants (the “Margaux Cargeaux”), and a shirt. The vest fits well, but I might exchange it for a different colour; the pants have the same problem as the XL Columbia pants—the legs are too wide; the shirt was a nice idea, but it’s white and the fabric is kind of transparent (I’d only wear it over a camisole.) The shirt was final sale, so I’ll have to keep it; the pants are keepers and I’ll just have to take in the legs; and after the dress I ordered from Scott e Vest arrives and I know whether I’m keeping it, I might exchange the black fleece vest for a nice bright red one.

My cousin told me a while ago about the leggings she wears all the time. They have pockets, you see. But they’re only sold on Amazon, and after talking to the owner of a store that has been negatively impacted by what can probably be called Amazon’s predatory practices, I’m even more firmly resolved not to buy from Amazon anymore unless there’s truly no other option. So I went hunting for leggings and stumbled on Encircled and their Dressy Legging. I’m wearing them right now and all I can say is… my leggings have pockets! Pockets that hold my phone! Huzzah! Encircled products are made entirely in Canada: they actually make the knit fabric and then manufacture the clothes in Toronto. As such they’re not cheap, but at least I know that whoever made my leggings was paid a living wage to do it.

So far that’s it for my pocket-hunting shopping spree. You already know about eShakti and the dress I had made to measure. If I had to choose one company to use again it would likely be eShakti, if only for the fact that apparently I’m proportioned oddly for normal pants, so made-to-measure makes the most sense for me.

On another subject, we’re less than two weeks away from Day 365, A.K.A. the anniversary of the day the world turned upside down. I’m wondering whether it’s weird to mark the occasion. If you had to have a “one year of lockdowns” party, what would it involve? Sweatpants and wine? Binge-watching an entire Netflix series? Or maybe just reposting blog posts from Day One to see how far we’ve come?

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?

el cheapo · Kids · parenting · The COVID files

Day 351: Spending Their Own Money

“Can you buy me more Robux?” says one of my kids every month.

In case you don’t know, Robux is a currency used in the game Roblox. As far as I understand, my kids are mostly using their Robux to upgrade their avatars (on-screen characters,) and maybe to play certain upgraded games. Whatever they’re using them for, the kids seem to need more Robux every month or so. And since we’re the bank where they keep their money, we have to be involved in the transaction.

There is no way Mr. December and I would choose to spend our money this way; but we decided long ago that if our kids have their own money (from birthday and Chanukah gifts, mostly,) they get to decide how to spend it. It’s better for them to learn about money and value and utility now while the stakes are low; when you’re a kid, being flat broke just means being without spending money (as opposed to lacking money for food and rent.) We’ve accepted that they’re going to spend some of their money on things that we think are foolish: that’s part of the learning experience.

There are still times when we get the urge to say, “No, we won’t let you buy that.” There are things we view as a colossal waste of money, and Robux is one of them. But if our philosophy is that they have to be able to choose what to do with their own money, then we have to stand back. That does not mean that we won’t give them our opinion, though.

“Seriously? That’s a lot of money to spend on a video game that you might not even like anymore in two weeks.”

“Do you feel like that’s worth it?”

“That’s a lot of money. Abba has to work for an hour to earn that much.”

“Why don’t you think about it for a few days and then if you still want it, you can buy it.”

That last one was Mr. December, this morning, trying to impose a cooling-off period on R. I thought that was a pretty good strategy: it’s still her money and he’s not saying no, just suggesting that she think about it.

When I think about it, though, it’s not such an unreasonable spend. How different is her buying Robux from her going to a movie with her friends and buying popcorn too? That’s $20 (including tax) for under two hours of entertainment; she’ll certainly get a better hourly rate for the Robux, considering how many hours (SO many hours) she spends playing Roblox. If I think a movie with friends is a reasonable expenditure, why not Roblox with friends—especially when it’s the only way she can even “see” her friends these days?

Fibro Flares · The COVID files

Day 350: Out of Whack

It’s been a brutal week. With the fibro flare last weekend, Tuesday night’s complete lack of sleep, and the stress and social isolation of lockdown, I feel like I’m barely keeping it together. I saw this meme online and felt completely understood:

Image description: a book cover with a picture of a boy in bed. Title reads “Alexander and the Day That Blended Into Every Other Day Like Some Kafkaesque Nightmare with No Merciful End in Sight.”

It’s a little like that at this point. Spring is just around the corner, but other than that it’s hard to see things to look forward to.

I know what this is. When I start saying things like, “What’s the point of anything we teach them?” and “Meh, doesn’t matter,” the obvious conclusion is that depression is rearing its ugly head again. Now that I think of it, I know that depression is affected by lack of sleep. It’s possible that the one sleepless night just threw my entire system, physical and mental, out of whack.

Assuming I’m correct, there’s nothing to be gained from putting all my whiny complaints down on paper. We’re all better served by me going to sleep, eating good food, getting outside, and reading a good book—I’ll feel better and you’ll get to read more interesting blog posts than “Everything Sucks, Day 351.”

crafty · family fun · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Kids · The COVID files · what's cookin'

Day 343: We Made Lemonade

Happy Purim!

Know what I did almost all day yesterday? This, four times over:

Yes, those are miniature lemon loaves. I baked almost thirty of them yesterday. I only had eight mini loaf pans, so it took a long time. Never mind how the loaves turned out—the batter was pure silky, creamy deliciousness.

I am never doing that again. From now on, mishloach manot will be cleverly chosen premade goodies, labelled with puns and witticisms.

Since it’s been kind of a rough year in a lot of ways, I suggested to the kids that we call our mishloach manot “When life hands you lemons…”

There had to be a whole lemon—and enough sugar to turn it into lemonade—in each package. Obviously. Then K asked me if I could find a recipe for the lemon loaf they sell at Starbucks. “So when life hands you lemons, you just loaf around?” I asked. The puns spiralled from there.

In addition to the “you could loaf around” lemon loaf, we had “start over from square one” lemon squares, “you might snap at people” lemon snaps, and in some packages, “you may feel like pudding everything off ’til tomorrow” lemon meringue pudding cups. The best part is that I actually remembered to take pictures this year before we delivered all the treats!

Instead of our usual evening at shul followed by carnival-hopping from one synagogue to another, we logged onto Zoom to watch an online Purim shpiel (play) starring families from the congregation. Then I stayed on and listened to the megillah reading while the kids went into a breakout room to play party games with the other kids.

Although it’s a religious obligation to hear the megillah read twice each Purim, I can honestly say that before last night I have never actually heard the megillah read in its entirety. See, normally there’s so much noise from excited children waiting to drown out Haman’s name with noisemakers of all kinds that the readers can hardly be heard and the rabbi has to pound on the table repeatedly to get everyone to quiet down.

Ah, the magic of the mute button! The only people I could hear were the readers chanting the megillah; when Haman’s name came up we all unmuted ourselves and made noise for thirty seconds or so, then politely muted ourselves again. Some people (including yours truly) made signs to hold in front of our webcams when Haman was mentioned. Here’s mine, hastily scribbled at the last minute. The kids especially loved the angry-faced O’s.

Following the reading we had a Zoom dance party where four judges watched all the costumed people dance and then awarded prizes. I’m pleased to report that we were awarded “funniest costumes” for E’s lion, my ladybug, and N’s constantly changing outfits (he kept running back up to his room.)

I hadn’t expected the online programming to be particularly enjoyable; I was wrong. We saw a lot of familiar faces, we danced, we actually heard the megillah, and we all had fun. The kids went to bed feeling like they had just left a party, which I guess they had.

Today we spent Purim day in the traditional way: driving around the city to deliver the goodies we’d prepared for friends and family. This year I limited each one of us to four people, meaning a total of twenty-four packages, max. The first couple of years we did it I had to hype up the delivery aspect to K (who was having really bad Halloween envy.) Now the kids clamour to come with me, and they serve as faithful runners from the car to each front door.

This year I noticed how great it felt to actually see people who don’t live with me. As isolated as we feel now, the bonds we have with friends and family are still alive and well. It made me realize again that when COVID is over I’m going to hug everyone so hard and not let go for a few weeks. You’ve been warned.

So it was a good Purim. We made lemonade (Zoom parties, megillah readings, and treats) out of this year’s lemons (COVID lockdowns.) And if you ask the kids, it was the best Purim, because they got lots of mishloach manot and have divvied up all the candy and Bissli and chocolates—they’re well stocked until Pesach, I think.