Kids · parenting · waxing philosophical · what's cookin'

Day 552: I’m Obsolete.

It’s been said that as parents, our job is to bring about our own obsolescence. In other words, we need to raise our kids so that they no longer need constant support and guidance from us. If you’ve been reading this blog for more than three weeks, you already know that I heartily agree with this statement. Why, then, am I slightly miffed that I’m becoming obsolete more quickly than I expected?

I always assumed that I’d become obsolete (as a parent) because my children had learned to take care of themselves. It never occurred to me that they’d begin to take care of each other so well as to make me feel superfluous; and yet, that day has come.

I made muffins with E tonight. After sliding the pan into the oven, I turned to E and told her to go take a bath. She went; I stayed in the kitchen to finish cleaning up.

Fast forward twenty minutes: R walked into the kitchen and said (in that uber-mature way she has,) “I taught E how to bathe herself. She didn’t know how, but I think it’s time she knew how to do it. Today I showed her how, so next time she takes a bath I’ll be there. Not to do it for her, but so she can ask me for help if she still needs it.”

Wow. Okay. I high-fived R and said, “That’s some serious initiative you’ve taken. Good on you.”

Freshly washed, with hair braided, dressed in clean pyjamas, E walked into the kitchen to check on the status of our muffins.

“Wow,” I said to R. “Did you braid E’s hair, too?”

She nodded. “Yup! I told her she has to sleep with her hair braided from now on so it doesn’t get all tangled at night. Either that or she should just cut it so it’s easier to keep untangled.”

(Readers, I have told E the very same thing on many occasions. Never has she nodded and agreed the way she did with R.)

After our muffin break, I nudged E and said, “Go brush your teeth, and I’ll come and tuck you in.”

“Actually,” she said, “R is going to read me a story and tuck me in.”

R looked straight at me and said, “I’m replacing you.”

“Really?” I exclaimed, wide-eyed, “Are you going to organize all her doctor and dentist appointments? Go to her speech therapy sessions and help her practice? Make sure she has clothes and shoes that fit her?”

“Um… no.” R said. “But all of the other mom stuff, yeah.”

I’m not sure how to feel about this. Is R jumping into what social workers would call a “parentified role” because she thinks I’m doing a crappy job? I’m mature enough to know that not everything is about me, but how can I not wonder if it’s about me?

You’ve likely heard someone say, “In big families, the older kids raise the younger ones.” Usually this is said in a highly critical tone, as though it’s terrible for the parents to foist that responsibility on their children. Is it really a bad thing, though? Is it bad for kids to care for others around them? To understand that all humans take a role in raising the tribe’s young? How exactly is R harmed by being allowed to voluntarily take care of her younger sister—who would much rather take hygiene advice from her sister than from her parents, don’t you know?

When R announced herself as my replacement tonight, I saw learning and growth in action. She obviously understands, for example, the steps required to teach someone a skill (first, explain while you demonstrate, then be present but step back and let the learner try on their own.) She took pride in her ability to take care of E; E enjoyed being the focus of her big sister’s attention; and their bond got incrementally stronger from the encounter. I think it’s safe for me to silence my inner judgy voice that accuses me of abdicating responsibility, and instead pat myself on the back for raising a kid who is a leader, willing to step up and help wherever she sees a need.

community · Just the two of us · Kids · love and marriage · waxing philosophical

Day 540: A love letter.

This is my favourite time of year.

Not for the insanity of the Jewish holidays (5 in one month!) or for the end of the summer break; no, I love it for the weather. Cool (but not too cold) at night and warm (but not too hot) during the day. It’s shorts-and-a-sweatshirt weather. The sky is clear and blue, the trees still have their leaves. It’s just a pleasure to be outside these days.

Actually, there are a lot of pleasures these days; More and more I’m noticing my feelings of contentment at odd times of the day and night. I’ll be reading in the back-porch hammock, or turning off lights someone left on in the library, or even emptying the dishwasher, and suddenly I’ll stop and think, “I love our life.”

I love Mr. December, of course, and I love how great a team we are. I love the house we’ve built together—seriously, I love this house so much—and the family we have together. I adore the kids and what’s more, I love seeing them together and I love watching them grow up. Our parents are all alive and well and living in the same city, and they’re a tremendous help and support to us. We have very good friends and neighbours.

We live in a neighbourhood that’s beautiful and safe, with public parks and a subway and shops nearby. We have biking paths, a community orchard, and a local farmers’ market.

I am, in short, lucky. Insanely, improbably so. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that life is completely unfair and often random; and it’s generally been unfair in my favour, which I appreciate every day.

There’s really nothing like this sense of great contentment, especially at this time of year. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going outside in my shorts and sweatshirt to sit in a hammock and sip some tea, and contemplate how very much I love this life.

Homeschool · Keepin' it real · waxing philosophical

Day 539: I don’t need to dig deep.

“Where’s Eema?” Mr. December asked the kids at 3:15.

“I’m right here,” I said from my office on the landing. “I’m just sitting here. I’m… spent. Don’t know why I’m so exhausted.”

R looked up from her colouring. “You did just teach us all day every day for a week,” she said generously. Which is all fine and good if it weren’t for the fact that, as I pointed out,

“This week had only two days of school!”


Today went beautifully. Everyone did their work, nobody screamed or protested, and we were done by 2:30. K and N finished all their history work that didn’t get done yesterday (including the assignment K was upset about, which she did with no further input from me) and everyone practiced their instruments. It doesn’t get much better than that, honestly. So why am I so drained?

In a similar vein, I had wondered why my hand still hurt so much after more than a week since the injury. Today my band-aid started to fall off, so I took it off and took a good look at my hand. That’s when I saw something that none of us had seen when I was first injured: two large slivers of wood protruding from the otherwise-healing wound. A small tug on each and they slid right out. They must have been in there pretty deep, because neither Mr. December nor the doctor saw them at all.

By the way, did you know that you don’t have to dig out slivers as soon as you get them? If you leave them, your body will gradually push them out without any poking, prodding, tweezers, or needles. Seriously, just let your body handle them.

I think I’ll take that philosophy to heart tonight. Yes, I’m feeling drained and exhausted, and it doesn’t seem justified. But if there’s a reason, I don’t need to dig deep for it; my body will handle it…as long as I get out of its way.

Fibro Flares · Keepin' it real · mental health · waxing philosophical

Day 532: S*** happens…

I’m sure you’ve heard it from me quite a few times: it’s always something. I get injured and then I can’t bike for a while. I get a concussion and have to step away from absolutely everything for a few months. One of the kids gets sick, and I have to pause whatever I’m doing to get them to a doctor. A new virus becomes a global pandemic and my dance troupe has to stop rehearsing. Seriously, it’s always something.

I had a bit of an epiphany yesterday: if it’s always something, and I know it will always be something, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Like, if I know something will happen to derail my life in some tiny or huge way, then shouldn’t I be able plan for such an eventuality?

It’s like when we were chronically late getting the kids to school every day. It was never for quite the same reason: K wouldn’t take her medicine; N forgot his backpack and we had to drive back around the block to get it; R couldn’t find her socks. It really didn’t matter what the holdup was; we didn’t have to solve each and every problem in our way. We were always ten minutes late, ergo, leaving the house ten minutes earlier would solve the problem.

This injury to my hand is pretty darn annoying. The weather is perfect for kayaking and biking: not too hot, not too cold, just beautiful. It doesn’t matter, because I can’t do either of those two things while this wound is healing. I don’t need to enumerate all the other things I can’t do because of this injury: I listed them in my post a few nights ago. The salient point here is that, once again, something is preventing me from doing most of the activities that make me happy. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last; it’s about time I developed a contingency plan.

What would that plan look like? I have no idea. I need to come up with activities I can enjoy when I’m incapacitated, instead of just moping around thinking of everything I can’t do. I am—as Jane Austen’s Lady Catherine DeBurgh would say—an active, useful sort, which makes it challenging to think of less-active, less useful pastimes. I have to, though. My sanity might one day depend on it.

So far my very short list includes Sudoku, walking (a very pale shadow of biking and kayaking, but what are you gonna do,) reading romance novels (don’t knock it ’til you’ve really tried it,) sketching (if my right hand is unaffected,) and hanging out with friends. That’s all. So… I turn to my readers (all seven of you.) Any suggestions?

diet recovery · family fun · Good Grief · waxing philosophical · weight loss · whine and cheese

Day 494: It Was “Only for Now”

I cried when I got this text message:

“Good news/bad news. It looks like I have a neighbor who can host our trampoline! She’s just measuring and checking on moving cost before she commits. Could you remind me of your address?”

Maybe it was PMS, or maybe I was bound to cry because I had a coaching session earlier during which I was holding back tears. But cry I did, over a trampoline.

“When the kids come home,” I blubbered into Mr. December’s shirt, “the trampoline just won’t be there. It’ll be, like, a giant gaping hole in our backyard.”

“It was never ours to begin with,” he reminded me, rubbing my back.

He’s right, of course. We’ve always said that we were “fostering” this trampoline until its family had space for it again. We were incredibly lucky to get it in the first place: it essentially fell into our laps at the beginning of the COVID lockdowns, when it was impossible to buy one because they were all backordered. I’m trying to remind myself to be grateful for the time we had with it, and not bemoan the loss. But it’s hard.

And re-reading the last paragraph, I’m feeling like there’s a bigger life lesson here. Is anything ever really ours for ever and ever? Or is it all, as Avenue Q said, “Only for now”?

Remember that coaching session I mentioned? “Only for now” would be an apt summary of what we talked about. I’m working on what some people call “diet recovery”—essentially I’ve been on so many different weight-loss programs, all of which worked temporarily, and binged so much in between, that I don’t even know what and how to eat anymore. Hunger cues? What are those? After overriding my body’s instincts for so long, I’m not sure what’s left. What I do know is that I could try to lose weight again, but in two years I’d likely be right back where I am now. Yo-yo dieting is very bad for your health, as it turns out; I have no desire to wreck my body any more than I already have.

Anyhow, my coach and I talked about “grieving the thin ideal”: accepting that my body doesn’t want to stay thin and won’t unless I punish it. I need to make peace with that. Being slim was definitely better than being fat, whether because of our society’s fatphobia or because of actual physical limitations, but it’s not really something I can maintain in the long run. I need to say goodbye to that dream of one day finding the perfect “lifestyle change” (because “diet” is a dirty word, you see) and getting and remaining slim forever more.

“Listen,” my coach pointed out, “our bodies are only for now. We age, we gain or lose weight, we slow down. We have to get comfortable with constant changes, because otherwise we’ll just be miserable. And we have to accept what our bodies are right now, instead of always dreaming of what they could be, if only there was a magic wand to wave.”

She’s right. It’s just really damn hard. And losing our trampoline on the same day didn’t help matters. But as the song goes, everything in life is only for now.

family fun · Keepin' it real · Kids · waxing philosophical

Day 491: It started out so well.

This morning I discovered a new beach online and decided to try it with E, who is turning out to be an excellent partner in beachy crime. I made the required reservations (because COVID) and even rented a tandem kayak for an extremely reasonable fee ($10 including tax for 30 minutes.) We drove out to Professor’s Lake, singing along with the Hamilton soundtrack the entire way.

It was unlike any of the beaches I’ve been to before: we entered through a building that housed bathrooms, a snack bar, and a boat rental desk, and came out to a tiny beach with three lifeguard stands and a roped-off swim area. It’s not a big lake (although probably similar in size to Kelso,) which meant calm, warmer-than-your-average-lake waters. The bottom was sandy all the way out and the water was chest-deep at the far limit of the “shallow end.”

E and I frolicked in the water for a while until it was time for our kayak rental; then I paddled us around the lake, sticking close to shore so I could see the backyards of the houses that back onto it. I had no idea that Brampton had subdivision houses with a lake in their backyards; most of them had some kind of watercraft and some even had small docks at the water’s edge.

(Note to self: I want a lake at the bottom of my backyard.)

On our way back to the boathouse we saw the lifeguards’ pontoon boat speeding towards us.

“I need you guys to go back to the boathouse right away, because it’s going to rain soon and also something else.” The lifeguard shouted to us.

Also something else? I thought as I paddled hard back to shore. This can’t be good.

It wasn’t until we got close to the dock that I heard the sirens and saw the flashing lights of an ambulance. We were directed to exit to the parking lot, unless we had things on the beach—which we did—in which case we were to pack up and then leave.

You might not know this about me, but I have strong feelings about what people should and shouldn’t be doing when there’s an emergency situation. As we were packing up and leaving I was telling E that when there are first responders coming towards you, you hop aside as quickly as possible because an extra couple of seconds might save a life; that you should follow their instructions first and ask questions much later, if at all; that we’re so lucky to live in a place where we have police and medics and firefighters who come to help as soon as they’re called.

In the parking lot I saw two women walking away from their car.

“Do you know,” I asked, “if they’re letting cars out of the parking lot? Or are we blocked?”

“They have to let us through,” one woman said in an exasperated tone. “They can’t keep us here.”

“Actually,” I whispered to Ellie as we walked away, “I’m pretty sure they can. And I’m certainly not going to interrupt them in the middle of a rescue so I can get out of the parking lot a few minutes sooner. We’ll just take our snacks and sit on that bench.”

Honestly, what are people thinking when they get upset about this kind of thing? They were planning to be at the beach longer anyhow, so they don’t have any other pressing engagements. What could possibly be more important than saving a life?

Which reminded me: I shared this thought with E and taught her the Hebrew term Pikuach Nefesh, which is the Jewish principle that you can (or must) transgress any law in the Torah if it is a matter of saving a life. She repeated the words Pikuach Nefesh a few more times, rolling it around her mouth.

After twenty minutes of sitting on the bench (I couldn’t stand how people were gawking through the fence at the scene unfolding on the beach) we took a walk down the path that circles the lake. E squealed in delight as we found a playground, and she started climbing while I added this park to the Playground Buddy app.

Our car was no longer blocked in when we finally returned to the parking lot; the firetrucks had all left and the ambulances were packing up their stuff and leaving. Only a dozen police cars remained, the officers all gathered in a tight circle on the beach—to debrief, I assumed.

Later I read that a man had drowned in the lake. In the face of that, more mundane issues seem so unimportant, don’t they? And yet life goes on at breakneck speed, I reflected upon seeing that my beach access fee had already been credited back to my VISA card.

On any given day there are tragedies great and small, personal triumphs, births, and mundane everyday transactions, all happening at the exact same time. I’ve tried to wrap my mind around that before; I’m still trying to.

Tonight I’m thinking of the lifeguards who handled today’s emergency with such professionalism, the first responders who were unable to save that life, and the family of the man who drowned.

Folks, please… learn to swim. Teach your children to swim.

And for heaven’s sake, do not complain about minor inconveniences when there’s a life on the line.

Camping it up · Kids · Sartorial stuff · waxing philosophical

Day 460: Heirlooms

After my post about needing twenty-four towels for three kids to take to camp, my parents and my in-laws offered me stacks of towels. Curiously, among the stack from my in-laws’ house was a towel with my younger brother’s name on it. I actually remember this towel as one of those my parents sent to camp with my older brother—the very same camp my kids are going to, as a matter of fact. It probably ended up at my in-laws’ house after one of the canoe trips Mr. December and I took with his friends in university. Whatever the reason, my kids will be taking their Uncle G’s towel to camp this summer. I’ve never heard of an heirloom towel, but there’s a first time for everything.


I could actually send someone to camp with a sleeping bag used two generations ago; forget about printed labels, this one has my aunt’s name embroidered into it (by hand, not machine.) I’ve opted not to because sleeping bag technology is way better and the bags pack up much smaller than the old ones, which matters when you’re taking it on a canoe trip.

K had her pick of three sleeping bags. The one she chose had my maiden name on it in Sharpie marker—it’s the one I took on canoe trips and to overnight camp as a counsellor. I didn’t try to cover over my name or black it out, I just wrote hers in under it. Very briefly, I had a vision of K in twenty-five years’ time, writing her child’s name under her own.


My kids view this stuff much less sentimentally than I do. K was in need of a fourth sweatshirt for camp and I offered her one that I stole from Mr. December’s closet in high school (because it smelled like him.) It’s a vintage Roots sweatshirt, the kind that was all the rage in the 1980’s and 1990’s, that Mr. December wore in his teens—it quite possibly went to camp with him. It definitely went to camp with me in my early twenties, because it has my name tag sewn into it. Kali admired it, tried it on… and pronounced it “kind of scratchy.” Any dreams the shirt had of making a camp comeback were crushed.


If nothing else, what I’ve learned from these reflections is that some things actually are made to last. Some people’s family heirlooms are things like an ugly vase that everyone wishes would fall and break, but nobody has the guts to just throw out; our heirlooms are sleeping bags, sweatshirts, and (apparently) towels. I can live with that—I value function over form, after all.

Jewy goodness · Keepin' it real · waxing philosophical

Day 459: This Week’s Rabbit Hole Is…

On Sunday I was following (and participating in) a Facebook conversation about code-switching. Someone made the claim that it is a term used only for the way Black American people have to alter their speech to fit in with white folks. There was an immediate backlash against this, with plenty of people chiming in about how their own ethnic groups also code-switch when communicating with people outside their group.

A few of the people who piped up with this information said they were of Romani heritage, which got me wondering exactly where the Roma people came from. Google and Wikipedia had the answer to that: Northern India. Wow. I had no idea. I had assumed the Roma were one of many tribal cultures originating in Europe. Nope.

Somewhere in one of the articles I read, there was mention of Ashkenazi Jews (peripherally, not directly related to the Roma in any way); my brain jumped to the genetic studies of where Ashkenazim came from. As you know, where my brain jumps, my internet browser soon follows. It occurred to me that it would be really cool to see how far back I could trace my family history.

So I tried. I didn’t get very far, possibly because I can’t read Polish or Romanian and also because I wasn’t ready to plunk down money to access some of those websites. What I really wanted was just to find records of births and marriages and keep on working backwards from there. Maybe that was naïve of me. I’m sure I’ll attempt it again, but for now I’ll have to shelve it in favour of more immediate concerns.

But if I couldn’t find official records of my ancestors, maybe I could understand a bit more of their migration route. So I looked up the history of the town my grandfather was from, and then the history of Jews in Poland more broadly. And then there was an article about Jewish merchants and trade routes that went all the way from France to China in the eleventh century, which was interesting, and led me to read up on Khazars, which led me to Mountain Jews and the language they speak—Judeo Tat. And all because someone mentioned the Roma.

Come to think of it, this is how my mind works pretty much all the time. It jumps from one thing to another in a matter of seconds, so that I can be talking with Mr. December about summer camp and then say, “I just realized that trepidation and intrepid are from the same word! Why have I only just realized it now?” Admittedly, my conversation can be hard to follow.

But oh, my brain—and the hyperlinked internet world—takes me to so many interesting places. Thank God for the internet.

blogging · education · fame and shame · Homeschool · Jewy goodness · lists · waxing philosophical

Day 455: Not as bad as you think.

I hear a lot of bad things about social media—probably you do, too. And there are a lot of downsides: comparing your imperfect life to someone’s touched-up selfie, getting angry because “someone is wrong on the internet!”, seeing humanity turn ugly behind the anonymity the internet affords. There are definitely days when I think I’d be better off without Facebook.

Duty Calls
You can find an image description here.

On the other hand, Facebook has some very good points:

  1. It’s my proverbial front porch. I sit there in the evening and catch up with the people I know. I get to hear about all the mundane things, all the frustrations, all the celebrations—just like I would if we lived in a close-knit neighbourhood and sat on the front porch every evening, chatting with each other.
  2. It can be a great resource. Both Mr. December and I are members of a few homeschooling groups on Facebook. Through those groups we’ve discovered some of our favourite curricula and courses. We’ve also been able to get a sense of what homeschooling looks like for many different families. I’m also a member of a neighbourhood group, from which I learn about traffic issues, why our city councillor sucks, and who’s giving away free stuff.
  3. It reminds me about birthdays. If I wished you happy birthday this year (or any year, really,) you can thank Facebook for that. Every day it pops up and tells me whose birthday it is. It even lets me post a birthday message directly from the notification. I do realize that some people do this with their own calendar—digital or paper—but Facebook makes it so easy for me.
  4. Some people do use it for the betterment of us all.

Point number four is the one that gives me hope for our society. I’ve recently joined a group dedicated to being a space where people can ask good-faith questions about all kinds of social issues and receive honest, thoughtful answers rather than scorn and derision.

(If you don’t get why a question would be met with scorn or derision, think of someone asking about transgender issues and being labelled a TERF because of that honest question. It happens all the time, and it’s ugly.)

I have learned so much from this group. People have taken the time to post complex answers to questions about racism, gender issues, disabilities, etiquette… it’s an excellent read and very eye-opening, as the group members come from all over the world and from all walks of life. I’m enjoying it immensely. Even more incredible than what I’ve learned from that group is the simple fact that so many people want to ask questions, learn, and improve the way they relate to people who are unlike them.

I have similar feelings about the group where non-Jews can ask questions about Judaism and Jews answer them. I’m fascinated by the things non-Jewish people don’t know about us; from the big stuff, like the fact that we don’t revere Mary, mother of Jesus, to the minutiae of why inviting a Shabbat-observant friend to a wedding on Saturday is more complicated than just making sure they have accommodations within walking distance of the venue. I also enjoy being able to answer people’s questions and see their responses when they’ve read all of the answers.

People are learning, reaching out, connecting, and supporting each other in ways that would never have been possible without the internet (and social media in particular.) To me, that almost makes up for how social media also makes it easy for people to foment hatred, recruit people to radical organizations, and spread misinformation. Almost. Maybe if enough of us participate in groups like the ones I’ve been part of, education and enlightenment will replace the ignorance and hate.

I hope so.

Jewy goodness · Keepin' it real · mental health · Uncategorized · waxing philosophical · whine and cheese

Day 427: Fear

I broke my own rule, and now I’m sorry.

Scrolling through my Facebook feed, I noticed a post about Israel, by one of my FB friends. He said something about how nice it is to see the Jewish community starting to come around to the pro-Palestinian movement. A lot of other things were said, too, to which I responded with a few pointed questions about why the rest of the world is not engaged in this level of protest or demonization with regards to, say, China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, or the Syrian civil war. Could it be because Israel is the Jewish state? Could Antisemitism be a factor? I don’t even remember what was said in response; I do remember that one person’s comment ended with “shame on you!”

She also accused me of being too snarky and aggressive in my post. If I was Black and posting about racism, that would be called tone policing. If I was LGBTQ, I could say that any support for people whose goal is to kill all the Jews is a complete non-starter, because my right to exist is not up for discussion. If I was a university student I could claim that this kind of talk makes me feel ‘unsafe’, and I would receive emotional support for it. But I’m Jewish, which means that none of those things applies to me.

There is a degree of cultural and generational trauma for the Jewish community that often informs our view of the current (and ongoing) conflict. There is a lot of fear of what would happen if Israel backed off (because, you know, Hamas wants to drive us all into the sea.) The recent rise in Antisemitic attacks in North America doesn’t help. If the supporters of the Palestinians insist that their position has nothing to do with Antisemitism, how do they square that with the fact that Jews outside of Israel are being attacked because they are Jews? Is there an explanation that doesn’t point to Antisemitism? If there is, I’d desperately like to hear it and be able to believe it.

The whole situation in Israel/Palestine confuses and disturbs me. The situation of the Palestinian people, living under the thumb of a terrorist organization, is deeply saddening. And I hate that my Israeli cousins and friends have to wake their children in the middle of the night to run down to the bomb shelter. Beyond that, I’m hesitant to make any analysis, partly because I feel like I can never do the situation justice and partly because it won’t help anyway. There’s precious little, if anything, I can do to influence the situation.

I should probably just snooze posts from this friend and anyone else who posts things that upset me. It’s probably naïve of me to believe that if we can speak openly with each other, maybe we can find common ground and move closer to peace for everyone. But if I shut out the voices that make me uncomfortable, isn’t that also part of the problem? I don’t want to live in an echo chamber. I do, however, want to live without the anxiety that these encounters cause me. I want to live without fear. And right now, I don’t think I can.