fame and shame · family fun · Keepin' it real · Kids · snarky · Travelogue · what's cookin' · whine and cheese

Day 633: The Krazy Krusty Katastrophe

Mr. December chose the restaurant for dinner tonight (the apartment we’re in is not well-equipped enough to cook anything in, so we’re eating out at least twice a day): Krusty Burger. Yes, just like in The Simpsons. 

Just like in The Simpsons, we were shocked—shocked!—to discover that Krusty’s name had been attached to an inferior product. 

(Okay, there wasn’t anything wrong with the food per se, but it was definitely wrong for us.) 

“Hamburguesas sin queso, sin jamón, salsas apartes,” I instructed in my most competent Spanish. The waiter wrote it down and repeated the order back to me twice, correctly. But of course, our hamburgers arrived smothered in cheese and sporting a nice thick slice of ham. At least the sauces were on the side. 

We sent the burgers back and they brought us new ones, just like we’d ordered. What we didn’t know (because it wasn’t on the menu) was that they sprinkle cheese on the French fries. I don’t know why. But K, who has a very strong aversion to cheese, was extremely upset. 

“Who puts cheese on a burger?” She ranted. 

“A lot of people,” I deadpanned. “They even have a name for it: it’s called a cheeseburger.” 

“And why do they put cheese on the fries? WHY???” She wailed, almost in tears. By this point she was in full-on meltdown mode, so I asked her to go for a short walk with me. 

We walked. We hugged. I commiserated with her. Then I told her a joke that had come to mind:

A Rabbi who’s been leading a congregation for many years is upset by the fact that he’s never been able to eat pork. So he flies to a remote tropical island to experience pork for the first time. He checks into his hotel, gets himself a table at the finest restaurant, and orders the most expensive pork dish on the menu.

As he’s eagerly waiting for it to be served, he hears his name called from across the restaurant. He looks up to see 10 of his loyal congregants approaching. What luck – they’d chosen the same time to visit the same island!

Just at that moment, the waiter comes out with a huge silver tray carrying a whole roasted pig with an apple in its mouth.

The Rabbi sheepishly looks up at his congregants and says, “What kind of place is this? You order an apple and look how it’s served!”

Walking back to the restaurant with a much calmer K, I felt a sudden sharp pain in my foot. I looked down: a round wooden skewer was sticking out of my shoe. And my foot. Ouch. Or as Homer Simpson once said, “Fiddle-dee-dee, that will require a tetanus shot!” Good thing I’m up-to-date with my boosters.

The roadside skewer wasn’t Krusty Burger’s fault, but they messed up our order, brought us one glass of water instead of six, ruined French fries (that’s quite a feat,) and gave Mr. December a stomachache. 

“Ay ay ay, mi estomago!” He moaned as we walked home. But hey—he said it in Spanish!

Costa Rica · DIY · family fun · hackin' it · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Keepin' it real · Kids · Travelogue · what's cookin'

Day 620: Hannukah Hacks

It’s no secret that I really miss our Chanuka box. That little baby has everything in it: story books, candles, dreidels, menorahs, extra chocolate gelt, and a candy thermometer for perfect deep-frying. Here in Costa Rica we have… none of that. Put it all on the list of stuff I didn’t bring.

So how exactly are we celebrating Chanuka this year? Read on…

Candles and Menorah

Back home, I decided that we’d be able to do an oil menorah by boring some holes in a potato, filling them with oil, and using pieces of string as wicks. Then I got to the supermarket here and saw a pack of birthday candles with a bonus: those little plastic candleholders you stick into the birthday cake. My plan shifted, and we decided to stick the holders into a plantain to make our chanukiyah. It worked beautifully except for one minor detail: the plastic candleholders melted. From now on we’re just sticking the candles directly into the plantain.

A plantain (looks like a large bruised yellow banana) lying on its side on a dark granite countertop. There are nine plastic candleholders stuck into it in a line; the holder farthest to the right has a birthday candle in it.

A Dreidel

If you want to try this one, you will need:
A roll of blue painters’ tape
A pole-dancing pole
Children who enjoy the sensation of spinning
Something small to use as gambling currency (we used mini cookies)

It’s simple, really: using the blue painters’ tape I made the four Hebrew letters on the floor tiles surrounding the pole. We divided up the cookies equally, then took turns spinning R or E on the pole. The kid on the pole stuck out one leg, and whatever letter that leg pointed to when the spinning stopped was the result.

Chanuka Food

This one was easy. Potatoes and onions are cheap and easy to come by (which is probably why potato pancakes became the chanuka food of Ashkenazim in the first place.) I substituted panko crumbs for matzoh meal, and voilá! Tastes just like home.

We made sufganiyot too, which was easy given that the recipe uses basic baking ingredients. It was even easier than at home, actually: I found jam in a squeeze pouch with a nozzle, eliminating the messy work of getting jelly into my giant syringe for injection into the donuts. We need jam packaging like that at home!

Matches or a Lighter

If you don’t have matches or a lighter, you can roll up a piece of paper and stick it into the flames of a gas stove or barbecue. No gas appliances? Well, then you’re out of luck. That was us tonight: we had our candles all lined up and then realized we had no way to light them (this is the first place we’ve stayed that didn’t have matches in a drawer somewhere.) Sadly, we couldn’t light our candles tonight—but we still sang the blessings, omitting the one specific to the actual lighting.

After all that, my kids have still asked that we not travel over any more Jewish holidays… unless it’s to Israel. I can’t say I blame them.

Costa Rica · Homeschool · what's cookin' · Worldschooling

Day 606: Feeding Eleven

Our meals have undergone a radical shift since we got to this beach house. In every other place we’ve stayed, we’ve been eating mostly things that didn’t need much preparation: pancakes from a mix, turkey sandwiches, pasta, hot dogs. The friends with whom we’re sharing this house, on the other hand, eat gluten-free, dairy-free, mostly-organic and sometimes even paleo. Their meals consist of multiple vegetable dishes and salads.

It reads like the premise of a sitcom, doesn’t it? One family that eats processed convenience foods and another that eats only super-fresh, super-healthy stuff. Unfortunately for any would-be TV scriptwriters, there isn’t enough conflict to base a single episode on. And by “not enough conflict” I mean “none.”

Mr. December has joked about how I’ve been putting a lot more effort into our meals since we got here; our friend commented that she feels like she’s been making far more basic stuff here than she does back home. Seems to me like we’ve met in the middle—which is good, because we’re now making most of our dinners together.

We went grocery shopping together today—which surprised me, but only because our last grocery run was only two days ago. With eleven people in the house, the “good stuff” doesn’t last very long: Mr. December bought twelve Roma tomatoes on Sunday and they were all gone by Monday night. Ditto the fruit, the macadamia nuts, even the broccoli; my two containers of cherry tomatoes were gone within ten minutes of the children discovering them.

We loaded up two full shopping carts today. Any guesses as to how long this set of groceries will last us?

I spent an hour yesterday cleaning the griddle on the commercial gas range here. It took lots of soap, a dish scrubber, a putty knife, and some elbow grease, but I finally got it clean enough that my tortillas wouldn’t turn black from caked-on grease. It was so satisfying—it’s also evidence that I’m getting old.

And in homeschool-related news, today I taught the kids about cnidaria (the phylum that includes jellyfish, sea anemones, and coral.) Instead of doing a demonstration of the life cycle of a jellyfish, I made them act it out in the pool: they fell to the bottom as larvae, attached to the floor and waved their tentacles around in the polyp stage, and then detached and swam around as medusae. I thought it would be fun for a few minutes, but the kids really enjoyed it and kept asking to do it again.

I also made up a really corny joke:

Q: Why can’t cnidaria hear the ocean?
A: Because their “C” (sea) is silent!

Thanks, folks. I’ll be here all week. You’re a beautiful audience.

Costa Rica · family fun · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · Travelogue · what's cookin' · Worldschooling

Day 598: Order Up

Mr. December hates how we order food at breakfast here.

Me: I’ll have The Gringo except instead of bacon can I have plantain? And I’d like strawberry jam for the toast. On the side.
E: I’ll take the French toast, but only so Eema can have it with her eggs and I can have plain toast with jam.
N: French toast, but with the honey and jam on the side. And no bananas. Okay, bananas on a separate plate.
K: French toast with strawberry AND blackberry jam. Also, can I have a half-hot-chocolate-half-coffee?
R: French toast, please. And I don’t want orange juice. Does anybody else want my orange juice?
Mr. December: I’ll have the Pura Vida and a coffee.

When the food arrives, it makes the following trips around the table:

  • R’s orange juice goes to N
  • My toast and jam goes to E
  • My watermelon goes to R
  • Everyone’s papaya (except mine) goes to K
  • E’s French toast comes to me
  • N’s banana slices (on a separate plate) go to the centre of the table and are up for grabs
  • Mr. December’s breakfast goes… nowhere. How boring.

After breakfast we did some more riding… this time on a water buffalo. Yes, a water buffalo. With a saddle and everything. I have photographic evidence to prove it.

Today was another free day, but this time with schooling. E threw a bit of a tantrum about having to do reading, but she was really into the classification lesson in science. I didn’t get any time to work on writing or social studies with the big kids because Mr. December is preparing them to write the Caribou math contest, and that took a bunch of time as well as mental effort. The kids found it taxing, too.

We hit the pool for a nice long swim in the afternoon. We had to pack our stuff up for the next day’s move to Monteverde; when we were done we turned on Netflix and watched Addams Family Values, which I haven’t seen in at least twenty-five years. Before that, however, I must have seen it at least ten times, a fact my younger brother confirmed over WhatsApp. Mr. December had never seen it, and the humour is pretty much right up his alley—like when Gomez Addams says, “I hope one day you, too, will know the joy of having children… and paying someone else to raise them.”

If you haven’t seen it, and if you appreciate dry, dark humour, it’s a fun movie to watch. I recommend it.

Costa Rica · education · family fun · Travelogue · what's cookin' · Worldschooling

Day 592: Enforced Family Time

Our morning plans got rained out.

Tired of my kids spending all their free time on digital devices, I decided to have some EFT (Enforced Family Time®) for everyone. They balked at first (of course) but came around after I offered to store all of the devices securely for the rest of the day so they wouldn’t be too distracting.

I started by reviewing a bit of solfege and the Kodaly hand signs. I had them sing back intervals and short melodies. Gradually, I started singing (and signing) the notes for the harmony part of “Donkey Riding.” After twenty minutes, R knew the part perfectly and could hold her own while I sang the melody; other family members still need to do a bit of work, but there’s only so much time you can spend hammering notes into someone’s head, so we stopped for the day.

We started watching the documentary Fantastic Fungi on Netflix and somehow ended up learning about how the death cap mushroom’s deadly properties work. So, you know, some light edutainment.

Our afternoon activity was a Spanish lesson followed by a cooking lesson in Spanish. Describing it that way would be like calling Lake Ontario a puddle; this afternoon was so much better than I had expected—although since so many of the activities have exceeded my expectations, maybe it’s time those expectations were raised.

Our Spanish lesson took place on a lovely covered veranda overlooking the valley, while it absolutely poured rain. We learned some basic verbs, greetings and goodbyes, days of the week, telling time, and numbers. Then we were led back through the Spanish on the River building and into someone’s private quarters, and there we met Fernando, the owner of several Spanish schools, who would be teaching the cooking class.

To get to the kitchen we had to go through a room with at least a dozen guitars hanging on the walls: a mixing board in the corner confirmed that it was his music studio. The rest of the house, which Fernando built himself, was very cool: big windows, an upstairs loft, a spiral staircase right in the middle of the kitchen island. A ton of musical instruments in an unusual, owner-designed house—I knew I’d like Fernando even before I spent any time with him.

We didn’t start cooking right away: Fernando heard that R played guitar and asked her to play something. She demurred and pointed out that I play much better, then led the other kids in chanting, “Play! Play! Play!”

I sang “Feelin’ Groovy,” and was then pressured to play and sing “Sweet Caroline,” which was as hilarious as it was raucous. Then Fernando brought her a small guitar from his studio; R agreed to play “Riptide” and everyone sang along, including the three Costa Ricans in the room.

Then we got down to business. Fernando taught us to make tortillas from scratch (just cornmeal, water, and salt) with a neat tortilla press that I now want in my own kitchen. After I assured him that my kids can cook, he had them mixing, rolling, pressing, and chopping for the tortillas and the Arroz con Pollo (rice with chicken) that would be our main course. I had the pleasure of watching how capably and agreeably the kids helped out. N ended up with the job of stirring everything together in a wok; I hoped that he might taste the food since he had helped prepare it, but no such luck. He just ate the jelly-filled empañadas that he’d suggested making.

As we worked, we chatted in Spanish and English about families, children, travel, music, guitars, and technology. R wandered off to practice guitar; when she was done and the adults had retired to the couches with coffee, I played again while the kids sang. Fernando grabbed another guitar and joined in as well.

It was another remarkable afternoon that felt like a visit with new friends—which was lovely, but which raised some awkwardness for me and Mr. December. Normally when one goes on a tour, one tips the guide; but here, where we felt like we’d just been entertained in someone’s home, it felt crass to hand him some money. I wished at that moment that I had thought to bring a bottle of maple syrup, or maybe even a bottle of wine, the way I would if I was invited for dinner as a friend. In the end, I decided that I’ll write him a really nice thank-you note and deliver it with a small bottle of maple syrup we brought from home for this type of occasion. Might as well cement some of the stereotypes about Canadians, eh?

Costa Rica · family fun · Travelogue · what's cookin'

Day 588: On the Road Again…

Our time on the Caribbean coast came to an end yesterday. Our driver, Fernando, picked us up at eleven and we headed north and west towards Turrialba. I rode shotgun; along the way he told me about his children and grandchildren, his life near La Fortuna, why electricity is so expensive in Costa Rica, and that he was a singer and songwriter. Of course I asked him to sing one of his own songs; the song he chose was written for his mother on Mothers’ Day. He had a beautiful, rich baritone voice.

When we were ready for a break, Fernando stopped in front of a Soda (a tiny local restaurant.) We ordered an assortment of dishes: pancakes for the picky ones, hamburgers (with rice and beans, no buns) for K and R, chicken in sauce for Mr. December and me. E and N ate the pancake and rejected the rice and beans—and everything else, even the freshly squeezed juice of an unknown (to us) fruit.

When I tasted the enyucados, the first thing out of my mouth was, “It’s like a beef-filled knish!” It was absolutely delicious, and I could have gone for seconds; sadly, it was the end of the lunch rush and they were all out of both enyucados and arepas (pancakes that I swear tasted more like sponge cake.)

When we got back into the van, I was seated in the middle row—right next to R’s guitar case. I had plenty of space around me, so I thought, Why not? and took out the guitar. I reciprocated Fernando’s gesture by singing one of the songs I wrote for my album when I was seventeen (it was a very good year.) I took a request for Big Yellow Taxi, which then led to Leavin’ on a Jet Plane. Then Fernando revealed that he really likes Country Music, and we covered that genre with Country Roads and Independence Day. We sang some Loreena McKennitt songs (a favourite of R and E.) I took a break—my poor fingers aren’t as callused as they used to be—and Fernando told me all about the opportunities for Karaoke (including popular songs in English,) and then it was inevitable: you can’t even breathe the word “karaoke” without singing Sweet Caroline (bomp, bomp, bommmmp!)

Fernando pulled into the driveway of Los Titos Coffee Farm and we got acquainted with the guest house and its owner, Adela. I loved it as soon as I walked in: it’s a 100-year-old house with uneven wide-planked floors, wooden windows with real operational shutters, tongue-and-groove ceilings and walls, and a large, cheerful kitchen equipped with anything we could ever need. Through the French doors in the dining room, we found a covered patio with two sitting areas, a huge grassy area, a hammock, and a swimming pool. K and R settled themselves happily in the large bedroom with a king-sized bed—Mr. December and I evicted them in short order—and N and E unpacked in the tiny corner room with twin beds.

Since it was Friday, we welcomed shabbat with grape juice and sangria, candles, white bread (no real challah here, and no time to bake it today,) and chicken-flavoured ramen soup (which I completely ruined, don’t ask how.)

So now we’re here in the mountain city of Turrialba, where the weather feels a bit like late summer at home: chilly mornings and evenings, hot days, some rain. The girls are excited that they get to wear their hoodies again, and I’m happy to not be sweating all the time like I was in Puerto Vieijo.

education · family fun · Kids · what's cookin' · Worldschooling

Day 587: Bribri Afternoon

(If you haven’t read yesterday’s entry, read it first.)

We had requested vegetarian meals on the advice of our tour coordinator, who felt the lack of electricity (and hence, refrigeration) meant it would be unsafe to eat the chicken.

A few hours after we made that decision, Mr. December suddenly said, “I don’t think she’s right. They don’t have refrigeration, but they don’t need to use it because the meat is always fresh—because it’s alive until like an hour before they eat it.” Of course he’d know—he once spent three months doing development work with Amerindian tribes in Guyana—but by the time he mentioned it, it was too late to change our lunch order.

Our lunch—plain rice, kidney beans, squash sautéed with onions and cilantro, boiled cassava, boiled breadfruit, and something green—was served on a plank lined with a piece of banana leaf. As it was set down in front of us, a miracle happened: E looked at it, said, “Finally! A place with food I want to eat!” and dug into the beans and the rice with gusto. She finished both.

N, on the other hand, ate nothing. He wouldn’t even touch the plain rice. His loss was E’s gain as she wolfed down his beans too.

After lunch, we got to experience the Bribri way of making and serving chocolate. But first, we learned that you can scrape the surface of a green cacao pod and use the scrapings to soothe cuts, burns, and insect bites.

The Bribri pick the cacao when it’s yellow. They use the jelly that’s around each seed for jam (or eat it fresh—it’s delicious.) Then they ferment the seeds and dry them in the sun. We picked up the process at that point. We crushed the dried seeds using a large rock and a concave wooden tray (think enormous mortar and pestle;) our guide jostled and tossed the crushed stuff in the tray multiple times until the pieces of shell had blown away and all we had was crushed cacao beans. Then we loaded the crushed beans into a manual grinder; what came out was black, pasty, and oozing chocolatey goodness everywhere. We tasted the paste, the purest chocolate you can possibly get: the texture was smooth and the chocolate flavour was intense.

We learned that the Bribri either eat the chocolate with fruits, or drink it mixed with water—never milk. Chocolate is sacred, you see, and mixing it with milk would be sacrilege (“Mmm…” Mr. December muttered, “sacrelicious!”) Our guide took the paste we’d just made and mixed it with condensed milk: we ate it spread on fresh bananas. It was heavenly. Everyone was happy except for R, who gets a tummyache from even small amounts of chocolate. She just ate the bananas.

For drinking, we added the paste and some sugar to a pitcher of hot water and mixed it with a wooden tool: a stick with five small dowels sticking out of the end like a star. We learned how to rub our hands together with the stick in between to froth the drink before pouring it out into dried-gourd bowls. I went back for seconds.

Suddenly, it was time to go. The driver of the boat would have to take us back to the meeting point and then come back to the village, where he lived, before sunset (sunset here is absurdly early—5:30 most days.) So with many thanks and chocolatey smiles, we left the Bribri village behind and got back on the boat.

The boat ride back was quicker than the ride into the village—this time we were going with the current instead of against it—and we got back to our meeting point around 3:20. Our driver was waiting there. Tired enough to ignore the potholes, I slept the whole way back in the car.

It may sound trite, but the kids got to see that despite language barriers, they had a lot in common with the Bribri kids: they all liked to play in the water, for example. More relatable, perhaps, was something we saw right before we left the village: a young boy sitting in a corner, playing Subway Surfers on his mother’s phone. As N pointed out, some things are universal.

diet recovery · Kids · what's cookin'

Day 570: Too Sweet

Yesterday I woke up with that leaden feeling in my limbs. My brain was fuzzy too.

“Are you okay?” Mr. December wanted to know. “This has been happening a lot lately.”

He was right—I have been feeling fatigued a lot lately. Thinking back over the last few weeks, two major things stood out for me:

  1. We’ve been going to sleep later than we used to.
  2. We’ve had a lot of sweet treats in the last little while.

There’s no good reason for number one; we haven’t prioritized sleep enough, although we talk about it all the time. We just need to accept that none of the things that we do late at night are so urgent that they can’t wait ’til morning. We also have to stop being the kind of people who say things like, “Just as soon as I’m done this chapter, sweetheart, you can turn out the light,” and then surreptitiously flip into the next chapter and keep reading. “Yes, it is a really long chapter. Sorry about that… but I really want to get to the end of it!”

With all the Jewish holidays, N’s very-belated birthday party, and R’s upcoming birthday, there have been plenty of sugary treats around here. It seems like every day involves a “special” treat, and because I’m currently in diet recovery, I’m deliberately not restricting my eating. I don’t know for sure that the sugar is making me feel icky, but if true it would certainly explain all those times I crashed on a Saturday (i.e. the day after Shabbat dinner with all its sweet challah, kugel, and dessert.)

By the time I was upright and dressed yesterday, I’d decided to avoid sugar for a while and see how I feel. That lasted until about 2:00 p.m., when K made a lemon cake for no particular reason and we all sat down to have some. One small piece of cake in an otherwise no-added-sugar day isn’t a big deal, I suppose, but it underscored just how impossible it is to turn around in this house without confronting another delicious source of added sugar.

I’ve often been resistant to elimination diets because I like food and can’t stand the thought of eating nothing but salmon, rice, and almonds (or, as a friend recently quipped to me, “I don’t want to live in a world without bread.”) Once or twice I’ve been desperate enough to try eliminating certain foods, though; Seven years ago, I gave up dairy in hopes that my asthma would improve as a result. My asthma was the same as ever, but one thing did change—I got pregnant (with E.) I’m not jumping to any conclusions, but the only thing that differentiated that month from the eighteen that preceded it was the lack of dairy. It kinda makes me wonder… but I digress (surprise, surprise.)

I explained to the kids that I’ve been feeling groggy and I think sugar might be the culprit. I hope I chose the right words to use: it’s very important to me that we not make any foods “bad” or “forbidden.” At the same time, I want them to learn to be mindful of the fact that food does affect their bodies, for better or worse, and to adapt their eating accordingly. I’m ignoring all the various studies (some of which contradict each other) about healthy eating; from now on, in this house, healthy food is whatever food makes you feel healthy.

With that said, let’s see how I feel this week before jumping to any conclusions.

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.

DIY · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Kids · what's cookin'

Day 549: At the Last Minute

Not sure who planned the timing on our (amazing, fabulous) weekend away (oh, wait, it might have been me,) but we got back home today at noon, which was about 7 hours before sundown marked the beginning of Sukkot.

No big deal, I thought to myself. I labelled everything so carefully when I took the sukkah apart last year—it should go up in an hour or two.

An hour or two? Ha! It took me around 6, start to finish. I haven’t figured out how it happened, but half of my carefully written-in-Sharpie labels were wiped clean, forcing me to guess which parts belonged where. I guess I’ll have to find something more permanent than Sharpie… maybe engraving with a Dremel?

Around 3:00 I realized that I was not going to have time to make dinner; I informed Mr. December, who went and told K and R that tonight’s dinner was their responsibility.

“Can’t we just order pizza?” They whined.

“Sure, if you’re paying with your own money,” Mr. December countered.

We didn’t order pizza.

K made Alfredo sauce from scratch and boiled an entire (big) package of fettuccine; N braided the challah dough that I’d had the presence of mind to take out of the freezer earlier; R made rice; then K made a “salad” of Multigrain Cheerios, dried cranberries, and almonds… with chocolate “salad dressing.” It wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to eat, but rules is rules, as they say, so I ate what I was given. The Alfredo sauce was very good—just the right amount of pepper and enough garlic to fell a 250-pound vampire.

So… a slightly under-decorated sukkah and a last-minute dinner by two child chefs. Not bad for the first night of Sukkot.

Stick around for a few days—I have so much to tell you. Right now, though, I need sleep desperately. I’m going to sneak upstairs before Mr. December and the kids notice I’m gone.