family fun · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Kids · waxing philosophical · what's cookin'

Day 186: A Different New Year

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, begins at sundown today. Normally our family would celebrate with festive meals with the extended family, and five-hour-long services at synagogue (there were always kids’ programs, babysitting, and breakout sessions too.) This year synagogue services aren’t happening in the same way and we’re not even at home; so what are we going to do?

Here’s what I’ve planned:

Friday Night
We’ll have the usual festive meal (minus the extended family) with round challahs, kiddush over the wine (or grape juice,) and sweet foods (for a sweet new year.) We bought five different types of honey from a local honey farm, so we’ll have a honey tasting and see which one is the family favourite. We’ll also have a game that relies on puns and randomly selected foods to create blessings or wishes for the new year. Some ideas I’ve got so far:

  • Peas (May this year bring us world peas)
  • Turnip (May the right opportunities turnip for you this year)
  • Root vegetables (May you have lots of people rooting for you this year)
  • Grapes (May we all have a grape year)
  • Tomatoes (May you be able to say ‘I feel good from my head tomatoes‘)

You get the idea. It’s corny, and the kids will love it — N especially grooves on word play.

We’ll do a few of the Rosh Hashana-specific prayers, including the one on which the Leonard Cohen song “Who by Fire?” is based (and yes, we’ll teach the kids “Who by Fire?”). We’ll discuss one of the Rosh Hashanah Torah readings, probably the one about Akeidat Yitzhak, the “Binding of Isaac.” We’ll bake, decorate, and enjoy a birthday cake for dessert (because in the prayer service we read, “Hayom harat olam,” which has sometimes been interpreted as “Today is the birthday of the world”), and I anticipate reading all of our Rosh Hashana storybooks.

I’ve planned to go hiking at a nearby waterfall. We’ll do tashlich (a ceremony in which we symbolically cast our sins away) with water-soluble paper; we can each write or draw what we want to cast off this year and then watch it dissolve as soon as it touches the water. Another possibility is to write it on leaves using wet-erase markers so that the leaf is washed clean in the river, a play on “turn over a new leaf.” I’ll also blow the shofar over the lake in the morning, and maybe again at the waterfall. We’ll end with havdallah and a campfire.

On a more personal level, I’ve been reflecting on the changes we’ve seen in the past year and what possibilities I want to embrace in the coming year.

I want my life to be joyful when possible, purposeful otherwise, and always intentional. I don’t want to wait til the end of the year to evaluate and change course. If something doesn’t work for me (or for us as a family,) I hope I’ll have the courage to change it.

I’m raising my expectations this year: we should all be able to thrive, and if we’re not, something needs to change. Since the schools closed in March I’ve seen all of my children thrive in ways they hadn’t before. None of us should just be passing the time between waking and going to bed.

I want to express my gratitude more, and in ways that are more evident to my children. I am deeply grateful for everything I’ve been given in life — I certainly didn’t earn it! — and I want them to see and understand the world that way too.

On the physical plane, I will give my body more of what it needs: adequate sleep (we’ve been getting 9 hours a night up at the cottage and I feel great,) food that nourishes me and makes me feel good, and exercise to keep me strong and healthy.

I wish all of my readers, Jewish and not, celebrating and not, a sweet and good year (even if not necessarily happy) in good health. May you have everything you need and most of what you want.

See you next year!

family fun · Kids · waxing philosophical

Day 182: Bubbles

Today was better.

It might have been because the sun was shining, or maybe because we went out in the canoe to explore an uninhabited island. It might have been the fact that I had a plan for the day.

Most likely, though, it was the bubbles. It’s impossible to feel bummed when soap bubbles are involved; even more so when the bubbles are the size of a watermelon.

This morning, after breakfast, I pulled out one of the project books I had brought along with us and showed the kids the page titled “Giant Bubbles.” Appointing N the potioneer-in-chief, I stepped back and watched them mix warm water, corn starch, glycerine, baking powder, and dish soap according to the instructions. I helped E make bubble wands out of dowels, metal washers, and string.

Finally, an hour later, we stood on the dock and tried to create giant bubbles. There were mostly failures, and then suddenly there was a huge bubble that stayed intact. It floated on the breeze and then descended toward the water. “This is it,” I thought to myself, “it’s gonna pop.” It didn’t. Instead it bounced off the surface of the lake and floated upwards again, a wobbling globe of rainbow colours.

It’s hard to say who was more enchanted by the bubbles, the kids or I. We stayed on the dock for an hour, gradually peeling off layers of clothing in the hot sun, and worked on replicating that first bouncing bubble. Eventually we got the hang of it; but even after dozens of successful bubbles, it never got boring. We only stopped because it was lunchtime.

Our collective mood changed for the better today. Whether it was the element of the unexpected (which bubble will pop? which one will last beyond the next dock over?) or just the sense of beauty and delight the bubbles inspired that did it, I don’t know. I also don’t care. Bubbles are magical; and whose vacation can’t benefit from a little more magic?

family fun · Keepin' it real · Kids · waxing philosophical · whine and cheese

Day 181: The summer break of our discontent

You know how they say that planning a vacation is more enjoyable than actually taking that vacation? They’re right. Although that could just be because this vacation kind of sucks.

There. I said it.

True, we’ve had a couple of great day trips. And there was a day, maybe a day and a half, where the weather was warm and swimming was fun. But it feels like a lot of our time here is spent moping around the place doing nothing. This is not how I pictured a month at the cottage.

I was probably operating on the assumption that the kids would want to play in the sand at the water’s edge, that the water would be a comfortable temperature for swimming, and that we’d spend the days on the dock, reading our books in the sun. I imagined giving my kids a few small lessons on paddling technique and then exploring the shoreline. I certainly didn’t expect how windy it would be here; and Mr. December and I both seem to have forgotten that “high of 23” doesn’t mean it’s 23 degrees all day long, but that it will hit 23 degrees sometime between 1 and 2 p.m., and otherwise it’ll be more like 17.

I’m trying to be phlegmatic about the whole thing: some days are good, others are less so. I often tell the kids that boredom is good for them: maybe it will be. I’m trying to figure out things to do that will make our time up here feel worthwhile. But Mr. December goes back to work (online, remotely) tomorrow and his one week of vacation has been rife with whining, complaining, and sneezing (did I mention that I forgot to ask the owners whether their cottage was pet-free? It wasn’t, three of us have allergies, and I spent much of last week vacuuming everything I could.) I feel vaguely guilty about that.

Mr. December has always been keener than I on the idea of planning and scheduling our free time. It’s something I generally do under duress — it does not come naturally to me to make a timetable of how we’re spending every hour of our weekend, and yet I made the effort to do it every week until COVID hit. Let me be clearer: planning our free time goes against my grain and rubs me entirely the wrong way… and yet I try to do it.

The notion that we couldn’t manage to entertain ourselves at a house on a lake, with a dock and watercraft and a fire pit, seemed absurd to me two weeks ago. Now I know better. R has started asking to go home. We’ve said no, because Rosh Hashana is next weekend and we want the kids to be with us. But every time she asks I’m tempted to say, “Only if I can go too.” If it weren’t for the fact that the rest of our stay here is non-refundable, I’d probably start packing up to leave.

Of course, it might be sunny and bright tomorrow and I’ll be back to rhapsodizing about the magic of getting kids out in nature. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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

Day 175: So long, Sluggy. We hardly knew ye.

For those of you who were wondering: N did a great job on breakfast and lunch yesterday. Dinner, however, was another story. He flat-out refused to do his job, choosing instead to run into his bedroom and hide under his blanket. No amount of pep talk, stern lecturing, or cajoling could get him to come out. Eventually E and I took over N’s job and got dinner on the table in about ten minutes.

When they were all sitting around the table, I opened up the discussion: “What do you guys think is a fair consequence for someone not doing their kitchen job?” When that failed to elicit thoughtful responses I changed tack: “Can someone tell me what harm is done when someone doesn’t do their job?” Eventually we all agreed that shirking one’s duty is annoying and disrespectful to everyone else, and that the penalty should be no swimming or boating for the entire next day.

Kids are creative, though, so today K found a way around having to do all the work herself. She “traded” with me, Mr. December, and R: she’d cook one meal on each of our days in exchange for us cleaning up for her today. Even with that concession, she managed to find things to be grumpy about; and when K ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Today was a weird day. It was very windy and overcast and the water was rough. Thunderstorms had been forecast for today, so as soon as the rain started falling I pulled the girls out of the lake. We spent most of the day inside watching “How It’s Made” videos, reading, and snacking out of boredom. We started to watch a movie and then stopped when nobody liked it. K’s moodiness just added furstration to our boredom, and we were all on edge.

After dinner I went down to the fire pit to start a campfire, but the kindling was all wet and nothing would catch. Some lighter fluid, a lot of fanning, and one hour later we finally had a roaring fire. I pulled out the guitar and started to sing. The first few songs were fine, but R was still off in a corner reading her book and K was still being a bit obnoxious. Then Mr. December requested the “Corner Grocery Store” song, and our day did a 180-degree turn.

The kids went from “I’m-just-here-for-the-marshmallows-and-I-don’t-want-to-be-nice-to-anyone” to “pleeeeease sing that again!” I sang verses based on their suggestions, rhyming “mango” with “fandango” (because the mango is tired of dancing the tango); we sang about marshmallows hugging all their fellows; and how the trees ate up the cheese, which was crawling on its knees. By the time the song was over, everyone was giggling and singing along.

As we moved on to other songs, K turned over a rock and found a slug. She showed the rest of us and E immediately ran to get her tweezers, bug net, and petri dish so we could examine it up close. The kids clamoured to hold the dish and look at “Sluggy” while E insisted that we take him back to the house so we could find him in her bug book (for the record, he was a banana slug.) The kids then sprinkled Sluggy with salt and took pictures with him before unceremoniously flinging his remains back into the woods.

That’s how our day ended: with songs, giggling, sibling cooperation, and a well-salted slug; and to think that only a few short hours ago I had thought the only good thing about this day was that it would eventually end. As Mr. December pointed out, you never really know what will grab the kids’ interest and get them all excited and working together. I guess the important thing is to notice and enjoy it when they do.

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

Day 167: Forest Children

There is way too much Roblox being played in my house. Granted, it’s a way for the kids to play with their friends, which is why I haven’t been too strict about the screen time, but it’s still way too much time sitting in front of a screen. As I’ve told my kids many times, that’s what wintertime is for. Right now the weather is perfect and it would be a shame if we missed out on it because of a computer game, which is why I announced this morning that we were going to explore the forest in a nearby ravine.

I was a bit surprised at how quickly the kids jumped up and ran to join me. They knew these woods, because last fall they attended an afterschool outdoor school in that park, and they were eager to show me all sorts of hidden places that they had discovered with their groups. They took turns leading me all over the park, down the steep bank to the creek, across the stones, and to the “sumac path” to pick sumac (which is apparently not ripe yet.)

E, who complained that she was tired when we walked along the paved ravine path, suddenly sprinted ahead to climb and jump as soon as we stepped onto a forest trail. I watched in awe as the kids — even N, who is often the least active of my crew — climbed, balanced, hopped, and ran in ways they wouldn’t in a playground. During our ninety minutes in the forest, I came to realize a few things:

First, the phrase “familiarity breeds acceptance” is worth bearing in mind when planning activities with children. They weren’t especially eager to attend the outdoor school lat fall, but it grew on them — and so did the ravine. Today’s enthusiasm was, at least partly, because we weren’t going to just any forest, but to their forest. I’m not sure that an unfamiliar park would have been met with the same excitement.

Second, that the children love a physical challenge. To their minds, it’s always better to go the most difficult way: over the rocks instead of around them, or along a fallen log instead of on the path. While there are playgrounds for swinging and climbing, they can’t possibly match the forest for variety, difficulty, and unpredictability.

The third thing I realized was that becoming the kind of person I want to be is as easy, and as hard, as just doing what that kind of person would do. I wanted to be the kind of family who biked together for transportation; we became one when I biked the kids to school for the first time. I got to call myself a homeschooler (something I have long wanted to be) the moment I withdrew my kids from school and started educating them at home. Today I can say that I’m a parent who takes her kids to play in the woods — because I’ve gone and done it.

I don’t believe in any way that today’s romp in the forest will lead to spontaneous outdoor play and a decrease in screen time. Tomorrow the kids will be back at the computer, whining, “But I should still have time!” and I’ll go back to spouting such wisdom as, “You should have logged off when the computer gave you the two-minute shutdown warning.” At least now I can console myself with the knowledge that my kids enjoy navigating the terrain of our local woodland… if they have no screen time left. It’s a start, though. I’ll take it.

education · Fibro Flares · Kids · mental health · parenting · waxing philosophical

Day 165: On Seeing and Believing

At this very moment, K is walking around gazing in every direction and whispering, “Wow!” Why? Because she can actually see everything for the first time in a long time, that’s why.

This is where I confess a parenting fail: it seems that I haven’t had my kids’ eyesight checked in two and a half years. I didn’t have an appointment scheduled for anytime in the near future, either, but last week Mum called my attention to the fact that while K could see the shape of the wall clock, she couldn’t see any of the numbers or hands.

Insight Medical 20/20 Vision Digital Acuity Chart Package – Insight Medical  Technologies

So this week I whisked her off to see our optometrist. Looking at the black-and-white letter chart, K announced that she couldn’t read any of the letters. The doctor switched to a chart with larger letters, this one starting with a giant E at the top, and K could read the top two lines. Everything below them was blurry.

“Don’t worry,” the optometrist said, “we have this instrument that verifies what the kids are telling us. They can’t fool us.”

Why on earth would a kid try to fool an optometrist? I thought. And then I thought, What has made him distrust children’s self-reporting? And then, How does it feel to be the kid in the chair, with the optometrist saying outright that he thinks you’d lie?

I felt insulted on K’s behalf, and on behalf of all the children who have come through that office. Then I realized that I’m equally guilty of disbelieving my kids, although I do like to think I’m less obvious about it.

One of my kids (I won’t name names here) was complaining about foot pain and couldn’t be more specific than that. There hadn’t been any kind of impact or accident that would have caused it, and since I mostly heard about it right at bedtime I shrugged it off as a stalling tactic. Two weeks later, when said child really couldn’t stop complaining, we went to the doctor who diagnosed it as something called Sever’s disease, which is inflammation in the growth plate of the heel. After lots of Advil and many weeks of physiotherapy and taping, the foot was feeling much better. I, on the other hand, was feeling like a total heel for not believing my child the first time. More than two weeks of pain for my child were my fault because I just didn’t believe the kid.

This post was going to be about believing children, but I think it’s a bigger issue than that. We don’t believe anyone, really. If you’re too sick to work, your boss doesn’t believe you until you present a note from your doctor. Heaven help you if you have an invisible disability or chronic illness; people with fibromyalgia, myalgic encephalitis (formerly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), mental health issues, and other invisible-but-disabling conditions are accustomed to hearing people suggest that they’re not sick, or not that sick, or that they could just pull up their socks and get better. I personally know people with chronic conditions who use mobility devices (usually a cane) not because they need them, strictly speaking, but because without some visible signifier, very few people will believe you if you tell them you need the “reserved for disabled” seating at the front of the bus.

How many individuals went through school being told that they were lazy and lying about being unable to do their work, when there were real learning disabilities affecting them? How often do we blame and punish children for their aggressive or impulsive behaviour when there are structural differences in areas of the brain that deal with self-control? How many adults believe that “problem” students could do better if only they wanted to?

We don’t believe what we can’t see. Not in others, and sometimes not even in ourselves. I can’t count the times I’ve pushed myself harder than I should: either because after months of good self-care I start to wonder if I imagined the whole pain-and-fatigue thing, or just because I’ve internalized the idea that to be sick or disabled you have to look miserable.

I hope that we can change this on a societal level. So many social issues could be tackled head-on if we believed people when they shared their experiences (instead of explaining them away.) I don’t have a proposal or idea of how we could effect this change; so in the spirit of being the change I wish to see in the world, I think I’ll start by believing my children… and myself.

bikes planes and automobiles · birthing babies · Keepin' it real · parenting · waxing philosophical · weight loss

Day 161: Living (Extra) Large

I’m typing this while sitting at my new desk. In about thirty minutes of ignoring my kids I was able to cut, glue, and install the slide-out tabletop which will house my keyboard, mouse, and laptop. My large monitor sits on top. This is a very comfortable setup, not least of all because I’m sitting in a chair that lets my feet sit flat on the floor while my back is supported by the chair back, my keyboard is at an appropriate height, and my monitor is at eye level.

Translation: my new desk is low, but it’s exactly the right height for me. It’s been a long time since I was this comfortable at a workstation. I’m forty years old and I deserve to be comfortable, dangit! And I’m not just talking about my desk.

I have gained fifteen pounds since the COVID shutdown. In the year prior to that, I gained fifteen when I was sidelined for months by a concussion. Both of these gains felt like huge setbacks because two years before the concussion, I managed to lose 45 pounds that really needed to be lost. I was mostly keeping it off, too. But then concussion happened, and COVID came, and here I am spilling out of my clothes.

I’ll pause here to tell you that I really hate the value judgments that come with weight gain and loss. I’ve never had as much positive attention as when I’d dropped those 45 pounds. I’ve run a half-triathlon, written and recorded a solo CD, won scholarships and academic medals, and built an awesome house. In short, I’ve done a whole ton of fabulous things. Why do I get the most praise and interest for losing weight?

All my life I’ve been hearing that weight loss is good and weight gain is bad. That thin is good and fat is bad. When I was thirteen my ballet teacher told me I should lose ten pounds if I wanted to continue dancing. I wasn’t thin, but I sure as heck wasn’t fat. I never went back to ballet.

Our colloquialisms betray those values. Phrases like “fat slob” and “fat and lazy” are rarer now than when I was a kid, but still not rare enough. People come away from performances saying things like, “He’s fat, but boy, is he an amazing dancer.” Why “but?” I love to bike, dance, and paddle. I’ve done these things when I was fat, thin, in between, and nine months pregnant. My skill level has not fluctuated with my weight; indeed, I was able to bike a farther distance with a much heavier load back when I was wearing the largest sized clothes my closet has ever housed.

Ah, larger clothes. I wish I had some. Sadly, I mostly bought into the philosophy that if you get rid of all your “fat” clothes, you’ll maintain your lower weight because you’ll want to fit into the clothes you have. So now I’m relying on stretchy capris and roomy t-shirts (some of them pilfered from Mr. December, without his knowledge — sorry, honey!), and some empire-waist dresses. Last year my summer clothes were snug but wearable. This year if I do up the button on my jean shorts, I have a muffin top to rival all others and I can’t breathe deeply. So I spend many of my days slightly very uncomfortable in the clothes I’m wearing, because maybe by making myself feel terrible in them I’ll get motivated to lose some weight. It’s ridiculous.

For the record, I don’t hate my body. It’s carried me this far, dancing, biking, walking, running, building, and birthing babies. Right now it’s doing what it’s supposed to do, saving up energy just in case there’s a famine on the way. As Eric Cartman said on South Park, “I’m not fat, I’m famine resistant!” Yes, I’m less comfortable with the extra padding around my torso, and yes, I’d like to be slimmer, but the extra weight doesn’t make me less beautiful, just less svelte.

I’ve decided that this is where I’m drawing the line. I’m going to buy myself clothes that fit me right now, not “aspirational” sized clothes, even though I don’t plan to stay at this size for too much longer. I’m going to be able to sit, walk, eat, and move without discomfort. I need to start choosing and using things — furniture, clothes, tools and equipment — that fit my body, rather than trying (and failing) to make my body fit those things and hurting myself in the process.

I need to show my daughters that the value of our bodies lies in our strength, resilience, endurance, and agility — not in our body fat percentage. And if I want my daughters to believe that, I’d better start acting as if I do too. Right now I believe it intellectually, but emotionally I’m not quite there. So I’m starting with clothes that fit me.

If anybody needs me, I’ll be in my room…y new pants.

education · family fun · Homeschool · waxing philosophical

Day 159: Picky, picky!

I can’t believe I’m about to say this…

My kids are learning how to pick locks.

I have no idea why and only a general idea of how, but Mr. December recently bought a lock-picking kit, complete with practice locks that let you actually see the pins as you try to move them. It took him about two hours of practice before he was able to pick one of the locks successfully, and now he’s teaching K how to do it. He tried to teach me but it aggravated my carpal tunnel syndrome, and I don’t like lock picking enough to make that tradeoff. I need to save my hands for woodworking, kayaking, and biking.

Mr. December looks at this as one of the various skills we can teach as part of homeschooling. We’ve been talking about how to structure our week so that we include time to practice these random skills (also up for consideration: knot tying and woodworking) in our “school hours” so that the kids do it without complaining that we’re infringing on their weekend time.

That discussion ended up exposing a fundamental difference in our philosophies. You see, Mr. December is convinced that after teaching the kids these random skills we’ll need to follow up and get them to practice regularly to master them. I, on the other hand, believe in introducing them to the skills and then ensuring they have the free time, materials, and support to practice if they want to.

See the difference? Mr. December seems to believe that if you’re going to start learning something, you should follow through and practice until you master it. I believe that it’s good to be exposed to lots of different skills, even superficially, because it gives you the best chance to find one you like. Once you’re interested in a skill you’ll practice voluntarily.

So you know, I agree with Mr. December when it comes to core disciplines like math and writing. But when we start to talk about what you might call “electives,” I see no point in forcing the kids to master skills they don’t enjoy practicing. Because really, who cares if my kids know how to tie a bowline? When they need it, they’ll learn. In the meantime, I’d rather they learn that learning is something to be passionate about, not something to be forced by an authority.

What do you think?

education · family fun · Homeschool · waxing philosophical

Day 148: Teatime!

My mum’s birthday was yesterday. I had the inspired idea of celebrating with afternoon tea, which Mum enjoys but doesn’t have very often. None of us is especially eager to go into a restaurant, though, so I decided to order some scones and other tea-type foods for pickup and then set up for tea at my parents’ house.

Then I hit a minor snag. Both of the scone/tea places I was considering are closed on Mondays; so we rescheduled Mum’s birthday celebration to this afternoon.

Here’s one of the things I love about our homeschooling schedule: if something comes up, like a traditional teatime with Savta (“Grandmother” in Hebrew — it’s what my kids call my mum), we can do that, no problem. Instead of read-aloud and group learning time, the kids helped me set up for tea, including arranging the food on platters and tiered servers. It turns out that K has a particular flair for making food look pretty.

It might be a bit of a stretch, but tea was educational for the kids. They marvelled at the swirling clouds the milk made when they added it to hot tea, and my parents explained density. Then a comment about the china we were using (it was my grandmother’s, and it’s now mine except I’m happy to store it at my parents’) being bone china led to the kids learning a little bit about what that meant (it’s the strongest type of china, it does indeed contain bone, and you can identify it by its slight translucency.)

N (my pickiest eater by far) was wondering out loud whether it was possible to make chocolate macarons, and began list off the ways in which he wanted to make macarons more palatable (to him.) I encouraged him to learn how to make them and then experiment with his own ideas to see if he could make it work. “That would make a great project!” I enthused. “Actually, anything you wanted to learn about or experiment with could make a great project.”

“Okay,” He said facetiously, “How about dying?”

“Dyeing, as in colouring things? Or dying as in death?” My dad tried to clarify.

“Death,” said Nathan, clearly expecting us to tell him that he was just being obnoxious (I’m pretty sure he was trying to be.)

“That would be a great thing to learn about,” I said, “especially if you looked at how different cultures deal with death. That would be fascinating!” And my parents and I starting talking about the coolest death rituals we could think of. For the record, mine was a Viking funeral (the one with a floating funeral pyre lit with a flaming arrow, although I just googled it and it seems the only funeral where that happened was a mythical one.)

And on it went. This is how it often is in our family: we hop from one subject to another, however our thoughts and each other’s words lead us. I don’t know if that happens for other people too. It’s like the opposite of doing a chapter of a history book. Everything in the world is connected somehow, all the time.

I used to teach tweens and teens at my synagogue. Once someone wanted to interview me for a column in the Canadian Jewish News about teachers in the community. As I explained to her, my philosophy of learning content (as opposed to skills) is that it’s a bit like stargazing. You learn a bit of something over here — that’s one star — and then a different thing over there — that’s another — and maybe you read a book that helps you connect the two. Sometimes the job of a teacher is just to teach about individual stars. The more stars a student knows, the more constellations they can see; eventually they see a constellation that’s mostly complete, and they know what pieces they need to fill in if they want to.

It might have been a way of justifying the fact that our lessons went wherever my students’ questions took us, but the more I watch our kids discovering the world and everything in it, the more convinced I am that it’s true. It’s okay to learn bits and pieces at a time, which is exactly what happened during teatime today.

The most important thing, of course, is that Mum loved the afternoon tea, and we all got to spend time together. The rest is just me trying to rationalize skipping “school” for a tea party with the grandparents — which is obviously the more important of the two.

Kids · parenting · waxing philosophical

Day 146: Inspiration Strikes

Know what’s weird? Kids change their minds about things in the blink of an eye. One week they’re eating two pounds of strawberries a day and I can’t buy enough to keep up; the next, nobody likes strawberries and we have six pounds of them growing mould in our fridge. While Mr. December is often right when he says that the best predictor of future performance is past performance, that seems to be untrue when it comes to our kids. They surprise us all the time.

Ever since the great dreadlock de-tangling of 2020 a couple of weeks ago, R has been a bit better about agreeing to have her hair brushed daily. But a few days ago she shocked the heck out of me by asking for “Laura Ingalls hair.” Then E, who wants to do everything R does, piped up that she wanted “Laura hair” too.

R’s been reading the Little House series, you see, and is fascinated with all things Laura. She tells us all about the intricacies of pioneer life: about how they built a door with no nails, how a sod house was built, and (obviously) how Laura and Mary wore their hair (in braids, Laura’s always tied with pink ribbons, and Mary’s with blue.)

Even though I don’t generally force or coerce my kids to brush their hair, I’m happy to do it for them when they ask me. I let them watch something on my phone while I work, which gives me time to do it neatly and gives them a distraction from the pain of having their knots brushed out. They watching Netflix happily while I watch their hair go from a messy tangle to long, smooth, shimmering spun gold.

It’s probably something evolutionary that makes grooming my kids so satisfying (I draw the line at eating stuff that I find in their hair, though.) It’s also a very sweet and tender moment — when they’re not screaming, “Ow! Too hard!” As they get bigger and more independent, and I increasingly respond to their requests with some variation of “Do it yourself,” braiding their hair is something I can do for them, sitting right up close and caressing their hair while I brush and then braid. Maybe that’s why they like it too.

(Who am I kidding? They’re mostly in it for the screen time.)

Whatever the reason, I’m relieved that the dreadlock days are over — for now — and I get to enjoy admiring not one, but two little girls with golden braids.