bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · Just the two of us · Kids · water you paddling?

Day 483: I’ve still got it.

…and E is definitely getting it.

Today E biked to my parents’ house for the first time. It’s about seven kilometres from door to door (driveway to driveway) and she biked the whole thing with a great attitude. I am so proud of her.

She chose to get a lift back with my parents rather than bike back home, a decision that all of us adults supported. For my part, I was a little relieved to be able to bike home at a normal pace.

You have to understand that despite the fact that she can go the full distance, E bikes very slowly. The ride we did today normally takes about thirty minutes for Mr. December and me (depending on the traffic lights,) but it took E almost an hour. There was a lot of stopping, a lot of waiting, and a lot of very slow cycling on a really low gear. It was just a bit painful to have to go so slowly.

Our ride home (sans E, remember) was exhilarating. Mr. December and I went at our usual pace, along streets that were mostly deserted, with the wind whistling in our ears and blowing through our hair (whatever stuck out from our helmets, that is.) It was twenty-six minutes of pure cycling joy. Why don’t I do this more often?

There’s no point wondering. I’m an adult; if I want to do something more often, I have to just get up and do it—which is why I spontaneously took E to the beach in the middle of the day today. The kayaks were already in the car along with our life jackets, and with only the two of us and some towels to get ready, it wasn’t hard to get out the door.

The weather was perfect for a day at the beach, by which I mean that it was cloudy and not particularly hot, so there were no crowds. We dug a moat that filled itself from the lake, then built a castle on the island in the middle. E insisted on adding some small huts “for the villagers.” She learned firsthand about how erosion happens when the water coursing through the moat undermined the edges of our island and caused chunks to break off and fall into the water; I don’t think any geography or ecology lesson could have made it any plainer. She diligently engineered retaining walls made of rocks to fix the problem.

Because I was determined to get some real paddling in, I tied a tow line from my kayak to E’s and told her to paddle when she could. We had a much longer kayaking session because of it (note to self: maybe a tandem kayak is a good idea.)

Image description: 1. selfie, with half my face showing on the left, and a green inflatable kayak with E in it on the right. There’s a yellow rope tied to the front of E’s kayak. The lake and the city are in the background. 2. The moat we dug with the pyramid-shaped castle and three mounds for villagers’ houses.

Today was pretty near perfect. How could it not be? Waffles for breakfast, beach time, bike rides… and Mr. December and I even enjoyed some drinks and quiet conversation out on the back porch before E came back home tonight. We need more days like this; happily, it’s in my power to make that happen.

family fun · water you paddling?

Day 477: I need a better kayak.

I’ve said it before, haven’t I? But this time I mean it.

I spent an hour or so out on the lake this morning with E. From the start of our paddle, no amount of shifting or moving or repositioning could correct the off-balance feeling I had in my kayak. It just felt like it was listing to one side the whole time.

Back on land, when I looked at the kayak head-on, I could see that the two different layers (it’s an inflatable kayak) were not perfectly stacked one on top of the other. That’s why it felt like the boat was leaning: it was.

My back is sore now; I was sitting funny the entire time I was paddling in order to make the boat feel less tilted. I absolutely adore kayaking. Back pain, not so much. I’m going to need a better boat.

Mr. December is on board with this, provided that I really think this through: if I get a “real” (non-inflatable) kayak, I have to figure out how I’ll transport and store it. No matter what kayak I get, I really should try before I buy to make sure that it actually is more comfortable than my current one. All of which means that, given my extensive to-do list, I’m probably not going to make much progress on the kayak front this summer.

In the meantime, I might try to rig up something to ameliorate my current kayak situation, because I love being out on the water too much to just sit out the summer. And from what I saw this morning, E does too.

Image description: A child paddling an inflatable kayak, with a beach and lifeguard house in the background.

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten all the other projects I have on the go. How could I? I promise that when I’ve chosen the fabric for my window seat and the curriculum for next year’s homeschooling, I’ll tell you all about it. In the meantime, assume that no news is no news.

Apathy · family fun · gardening · water you paddling?

Day 464: Bowl of Cherries

It must be summer.

This morning I saw a post on our neighbourhood FaceBook page about a lemonade stand happening today. It was just around the corner from us, so we went armed with loonies and toonies. It was even better than advertised: they had home-baked oatmeal-butterscotch cookies. I left the house with $20 and came back with $5. Money well spent, I tell you. Besides, lemonade stands are a great way to meet the neighbours.

I was feeling kind of “meh” today. No particular reason, just so. But I knew that I’d feel more energized if I went out and did something, and it was too hot to do anything that didn’t involve cold water, so I suggested an evening trip to the beach. Everyone but E said, “meh” and turned back to their devices, so I had a lovely couple of hours with E, kayaking and swimming in Lake Ontario.

When we got home I grabbed a container and went outside to the cherry tree. This tree has given us almost no fruit for the past six years; this year, for reasons unknown, it’s full of cherries. E helped me deliver a small container of them to our across-the-street neighbour, who’s been all alone since his wife died three years ago.

And now I’m sitting on our back porch. The warm breeze is playing with my hair and the sky is darkening. Just inside the door there are dozens of things for me to do, problems to solve, children to glue to their beds so they actually go to sleep… but out here there’s nothing but warmth and contentment, and a bowl of cherries.

Image Description: Cherries in a plastic container.
el cheapo · family fun · water you paddling?

Day 449: Back to the Beach

At 8:00 this morning I didn’t feel like going anywhere. We had planned to go to the beach—we were to leave much earlier than eight, in fact—but I felt kind of lazy and would have been perfectly happy to stay home.

I’m glad we didn’t. As soon as I got out of the car and smelled the air I felt energetic. Inflating the kayaks took a bit of time and effort (less than ten minutes, but I got very spoiled last September at the cottage where I could be on the water in under a minute) but when R and I paddled out, it felt wonderful.

K and N had put up a fight about going to the beach, but in the end they came along. K didn’t go into the water at all, but she did enjoy some fries from the food truck (she’s a teenager now, which means she’s feeding a massive growth spurt, which means she’s always hungry.) N waded out in the water and then surprised the heck out of me by wanting to go kayaking.

As we were packing up the car to go back home, I offhandedly said, “Hey honey, I think I need a better kayak.”

“What’s wrong with the ones we have?”

“They don’t have foot pegs, and they drift a bit. And they feel kind of slow,” I answered.

“Why didn’t you do your research before you bought these ones?” He asked in exactly the tone of voice you’re imagining right now.

“I did my research! But if I’d said I wanted to buy a $600 kayak you’d have gone into a whole speech about how I don’t even know if I’ll use it that much, and so I bought the cheapest ones I could find to try it out first!”

“Well, you don’t seem to use them very much,” he observed.

“Maybe if they were easier and more fun to paddle I’d use them more!”

He conceded that he’s familiar with the chicken-and-egg case of higher-quality equipment making it more likely that you’ll actually stick with a new activity.

I’m not going kayak shopping right now. I’m being explicit about this because I’ve just spent half an hour looking at kayaks online; but I need to focus on getting the kids ready and packed up for overnight camp. They leave on July 7… and then I’ll go kayak shopping.


family fun · Guest Posts · Independence · Keepin' it real · Kids · parenting · water you paddling? · whine and cheese

Day 190: Guest post by K, commentary by me.

I did not want to do a lot of stuff today but my parents dragged us all out onto the water. I would have stayed home but I was promised brownies. I thought I was getting normal sized brownies, buuuut nnnoooooooo… of course they were one bite brownies. Yes, one bite. Not two. One. One normal bite is the size of those brownies but i only take tiny nibbles so i managed to get a lot of bites out of that brownie anyways…

The trip. the trip was meh. We started out by getting into canoes and kayaks. I did not want to go but my dad convinced me with brownies. I just wanted quiet but no. R just had to be in the canoe and kept talking the entire trip and my arms were hurting. When we got to the island we ended up running through pointy bushes.

Okay, I’m back now. K had to stop so she could go to bed.

Do you need closure on that anecdote? We had canoed (and kayaked) across the lake and tied up our watercraft at a bridge. We told the kids it was time to explore, and once again we hung back and allowed them to lead us. Mr. December and I disagreed about the implementation: I argued that we should be teaching them how to use a compass and a map, and what to do if they get lost, before turning them loose in the woods; he countered that he was trying to encourage them to be fearless and to relish the exploration. As usual, the disagreement wasn’t resolved. The kids eventually were able to lead us back to the boats.

It’s amazing, the amount of complaining coming out of that kid. Right now she’s going through a growth spurt or something, because she’s eating all. the. time. An hour after breakfast she warmed up a huge bowl of chicken soup for herself. She warmed it in a pot, which she then left on the stove (which she left on) while she went to eat it. Sated, she brought the bowl and spoon back to the kitchen and left them on the counter. Later on, N was cleaning up and accidentally knocked the bowl over. Soup and noodles spilled all over the counter and the floor, and then I noticed the pot with the burned bottom and a few sad carrots sitting in it.

Lest it sound like I’m digressing, I’ll finish the thought. The complaining is incredible because in reality, she does very little without being told, then nagged. And, like all of her siblings, she needs to be constantly redirected back to the task at hand. It’s exhausting. I’m almost ready to give up on chores and just do it myself, because it’s a heck of a lot less frustrating some days.

Someone with adult kids — please tell me it’s just the age and they’ll grow out of it. Please.

family fun · Kids · water you paddling?

Day 184: One September Summer Day

First things first: I was so busy enjoying today that I forgot about E being my guest author until after she was in bed. My apologies. I’ll try to remember tomorrow, when the temperature drops to 12 from 24.

It was windy today, so in the shade it didn’t feel so warm. On the dock it was a different story: the sun was bright and hot all day long. I dragged the kids out of the house. “Whatever you’re doing,” I said, “you can do it on the dock. We won’t get another day like this.” While they did each other’s hair, read books, and played, I lay on a lounge chair in my bathing suit and read a trashy novel. It was perfect.

The day was so (relatively) warm that I agreed to go swimming with the kids, even though I knew the lake would be freezing cold. It was painfully cold, not refreshing, and we all started to turn purple after about ten minutes, but we made the best of it by running up the hill from the lake to jump into the hot tub.

I managed to convince N (who wasn’t keen on kayaking since last week’s fiasco) and Mr. December (who prefers canoeing) to try kayaking today. After they’d both had their turns, K and I went out together and spent half an hour charging into the oncoming waves. As I sit here right now I can still feel the up-and-down sensation; if I closed my eyes I could convince myself I was still out on the water.

Essentially, today was exactly what I’d hoped most of our days would be this month. We might get another, or we might not, but at least we had today.

blogging · family fun · Kids · water you paddling? · what's cookin'

Day 183: Waves

I’ve come to understand that temperature is really only one element of a “nice day.” It was probably about 19 degrees today, but the wind was strong and the lake was rough, so it wasn’t the idyllic day on the dock that I had hoped for.

In some ways it was better, though. K, my sensory-seeking kid who loves swings, spinning around, and trampolining, decided to try taking a kayak out on the waves. We went together, paddling ferociously towards the waves and cheering when our kayaks went over the crest of a wave and crashed, bow first, into the next one. We felt so alive… and so very, very wet.

So now I have a partner in crime who will sneak away with me anytime to go kayaking on a rough lake. That’s a good thing.

My in-laws visited us today, which was a lovely break from our usual routine. I dropped them and the kids off at the park so I could drive to the supermarket two towns over. The twenty minutes of alone time in the car was a much-needed reprieve from being with people all the time.

Driving is a treat up here. I love driving, but not sitting in traffic, so I try to avoid driving in Toronto. But here when I turn onto the road, there’s this long stretch of road ahead of me. If there are other cars they’re moving along at the speed limit (or just above it.) Navigating a grid of straight highways isn’t as much fun as driving on the winding roads in rural Pennsylvania, but it’s very pleasant — especially when the soundtrack is by Great Big Sea instead of Great Big Complainypants Kids.

We had a late barbecue lunch (including brownies my MIL baked for us) which left most of us with no desire for dinner; but by 7:30, I heard discontented rumblings about hunger and bedtime snacks. Half an hour later I was pulling homemade tea biscuits out of the oven. With Skyr (instead of clotted cream) and blueberry jam, they hit the spot. The children sat around the table munching and listening to me as I read aloud from The Weighty Word Book. I’ve since sent them to bed (with the requisite arguments about who’s sleeping where with whom) and am finishing my own tea while I write this post.

And now a teaser for tomorrow: E will be my guest author (she’ll dictate to me and I’ll faithfully type everything she says.) She’s writing a book about the adventures of her favourite stuffed animals, Chickaletta and Bubbles, and would like to share a few pages of it with my readers. You really don’t want to miss this. It’s adorable.

While we’re up here vacillating between ennui and excitement, some of my readers are affected by the fires in the western United States. According to my brother, the air quality in Vancouver is awful now, and friends in Toronto have said that the hazy sky there has been attributed to the fires. Wherever you are, dear readers, I hope you are safe and healthy.