better homes than yours · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · waxing philosophical · whine and cheese

Day 670: I Give Up

Once upon a time, my living room looked like a living room: couches, shelves for board games, hammocks, an ottoman. The only adornments on the wall were a few framed paintings done by the kids. The wall unit had open shelves where we displayed some beautiful Judaica pieces, vases, and other items that were both pretty and practical.

Then we started homeschooling, and Mr. December wanted to clear some of the open shelving to make room for the kids’ binders. I resisted, relenting only because the kids’ binders are all colour coded and their colours are all part of the colour scheme in our house.

The binders slowly encroached on more shelves. Mr. December asked for his own space to store his books and papers. Still, it was just one wall unit. The rest of my living room was still school-free (when we cleaned up.)

One day I decided it would be great to have a timeline on the wall that we could add to when learning about historical events and people. It had to go somewhere; I mounted it just below the window that separates the living room from the kitchen, rationalizing that at least I wouldn’t have to look at school stuff when relaxing on the couch, which faces the opposite direction.

A wipeable map of the world joined the timeline. Then a map of Canada. By this point that wall was full, so when I made the kids’ magnetic schedule boards, I had to hang them between the dining room table and the stairs. At least they weren’t in the dining room, I told myself.


I used to harbour dreams of moving all our homeschool stuff down to the basement, so that we could have our classroom next to the Makery and not have to look at all the school stuff all the time. But somehow we always end up at the dining room table or on the living room couches, and so our stuff has migrated there too.

I’ve given up. I’m letting go of how I thought my house should look. I’m trying to, anyway, because I think it’s healthier to accept and work with what is rather than “should-ing” all over myself and my family.


Last week I wanted wall space to hang some of my Hebrew materials: the days-of-the-week chart, the months of the year, and the weather poster. Heaving a sigh of surrender, I pinned them up on the wall at the head of the dining room table.

“It looks like a Grade One classroom in here,” K said.

“Maybe because it is a Grade One classroom?” I shot back defensively.

“No, no, it’s okay,” she soothed, “at least you chose nice colours.”

I put the final nail in the coffin today: remember that wall I said was completely full? Yeah, it was only full below the timeline. There was plenty of space above. It took less than ten minutes to put up some 3M hooks for the kids’ clipboards that hold their “to-do” lists and music practice charts. I also hung up the giant Post-It chart paper, because I couldn’t think of any other way to store it without it getting folded or bunched up.

“I love that you have school stuff all over your walls,” K’s bestie told me earlier this week. “My mom won’t even let us put up a wall calendar. She says it ruins the aesthetic.”

“She’s right, it does.” I responded. “But I’ve decided to stop fighting it and embrace that my house is a school.”

When my kids were babies, I only bought wooden toys and toys in solid colours—no plastic, no characters, no flashing lights. It wasn’t for health or environmental reasons, I just didn’t want my living room to look like Toys R Us had just thrown up in there. Nowadays it looks like Staples threw up in my house… and I’m trying to figure out whether that’s any better than Toys R Us.

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

Day 664: Still alive, still here.

Today we all woke up grumpy and exhausted, so instead of our usual lessons we opted for watching educational videos. Mr. December and K watched some math stuff (I really can’t be any more specific than that—I wasn’t there) and I watched Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. The kids learned about the origins of the universe, the history of the cosmos, DNA, and evolution. Not bad for a morning of school, right?

Mr. December and I got our COVID boosters yesterday. The pop-up clinic was so empty we decided to return today with the three younger kids. Two out of the three have now had their shots. I don’t want to name and shame the child involved, so I’m not telling the story of how our afternoon went south; I’m mentioning it by way of telling you that by the time dinner rolled around, I was irrationally angry at said child, as well as at anyone else who dared ask me anything. I spent the rest of the evening alone in my room.

blogging · crafty · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · Kids · whine and cheese

Day 658: Same Day Two Ways

It was lunchtime, and I was sitting at my desk researching art markers for R. It was taking me forever—not because of the sheer number of choices (although that was staggering,) but because kids kept coming over and making demands:

N: “Eema, can you please do my Hebrew reading with me now so I can finish all my work sooner?”

K: “Eema, I want to do more viola practice… and I need you to help me.”

R: “Eema, tune my guitar?”

I kept begging them to leave me alone and let me think my own thoughts for five consecutive minutes. Eventually I just snapped.

“GO AWAY!”


OR


It was lunchtime, and I was sitting at my desk researching art markers for R. It was taking me forever—not because of the sheer number of choices (although that was staggering,) but because each of the kids was eager to do something semi-independently, and they needed me to help them get started.

N had a goal: to finish school early today. To that end, he took the initiative to find the Hebrew reading book and bring it to me, asking me to please listen to his reading now.

R wanted to learn a new song on her guitar, and she needed me to tune it first. Then she went off happily with the chord sheet in one hand and the guitar in the other.

K was feeling inspired to do some extra viola practice (she already did one session with me in the morning.) She invited me to come and help her.

I was still in the middle of purchasing R’s art markers, so I encouraged them to work independently for a while. Next thing I knew, all four kids were in the library, taking turns helping each other with their music practice.


AND THEN…


We got almost no work done this afternoon. Writing got pushed aside because the kids were hyperfocused on their music; Hebrew didn’t happen, either. When I joined them in the library and started explaining some of the music theory that would make N’s piece easier for him, they complained about it being too complicated or too useless. In art, N flatly refused to work, and E cried about how she needed me to draw the picture she wanted so she could colour it in.


OR


Our afternoon took an unexpected turn: when I joined the kids in the library, they asked me to help N figure out the chords for Twinkle. Some debate about which key it should be in led to me explaining some music theory, with N demonstrating on the piano. In art, N didn’t want to draw at first. He couldn’t resist just trying out the oil pastels when I unboxed them for the first time, though. He experimented with blending and shading and ended up drawing a very credible likeness of his new octopus stuffie. K really got into it too, staying at the table long past our usual ending time so that she could perfect the colours in her sketch.


It’s all true, you know. My day was a little chaotic and I had to be flexible and follow the children’s lead. I also had a chance to relax my expectation and use some of my expert knowledge (I do have a degree in music, after all) to help them with something they were trying to do together. They exasperated me with their repeated interruptions; they sought my help and guidance to further their own learning goals. The day’s events were simultaneously frustrating and exciting, so much so that I couldn’t decide which angle I wanted to write for this post… so I wrote you both.

Apathy · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · Kids · Resorting to Violins · whine and cheese

Day 656: Three out of Four Ain’t Bad…

We’re getting back into a homeschooling routine, and a good one at that. I don’t want to jinx anything, but K has been practicing viola every day this week—yes, I know it’s Wednesday, and it’s a three-day streak… but it’s actually a long daily practice streak for her. Even better, she’s motivated to learn and improve; gone are the days of me forcing her to practice. I’m so enjoying practice time with her.

E has been going into the library when nobody’s there and practicing her violin. I’m not sure what happened to flute, but it’s really exciting that she’s going in and exploring the instrument on her own. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t sell off all the kid-sized violins when I wanted to last year.

We’ve even been doing Hebrew, which is something that often went by the wayside last year. E is happily soaking it all up and demanding more; R is happy to be spoken to in Hebrew in the mornings, when her brain is rested enough to process things.

Speaking of R, she’s been practicing her guitar this week and it’s really starting to pay off.

And N? Well… he practices his piano happily and is doing incredible work in math; he helped E with her music theory work today. But in Hebrew he refused to speak and then he left the table. When I gave him the writing assignment for the day, he looked away and then left the room. I offered assistance, but he wouldn’t tell me what the problem was; he just went mute and walked away.

On a side note, guess who has no screen privileges right now?

By 3:30 p.m. my brain was fried and I needed a break, but R wanted me to help her flesh out ideas for her writing assignment. “It’s your DUTY as a teacher to help your students!” she admonished me when I asked if we could do it later. So I helped her, which I actually enjoyed despite the descending brain fog.

And then I went down the rabbit hole of Air BnBs in sunny locales. I want to stick to this successful routine we’re establishing; I also want to see the sun. I can probably do both, if I can overcome my apathy to plan and pack and travel again.

Keepin' it real · whine and cheese

Day 654: “Managed”?

Today was a good day. It was our first day back to homeschooling; and though I was busy all day and am still tired, I really enjoyed having a daily structure again.

This is going to be a crazy short post because, as I was looking up one of my passwords to prepare E’s birthday present (her very own Kobo,) I noticed a small bar in that said Your browser is managed.

Managed? That’s usually something it says when you’re a student or an employee and your organization has applied particular rules to your account. As you well know, I don’t have a (paying) job and I’m not a student… so who the heck is managing my browser?

I went into the Chrome settings and ran a safety check: three compromised passwords and three potentially unsafe extensions. I deleted the extensions and restarted Chrome, but apparently my browser is still “managed.”

I love how Mr. December tells me to just google and read to learn about it—I think he forgets that I’m not fluent in computer terms the way he is. I am, however, chugging along, trying to resolve this little issue and still have time left before 10:00 to make it look festive around here for when E wakes up tomorrow morning.

So… if you know anything about this Chrome issue, please drop me a comment. Otherwise, just go back to yesterday’s post and submit some ideas for the caption contest, if you haven’t already (and thanks to those of you who did.)

Kids · snarky · Travelogue · whine and cheese

Day 649: Explain it like I’m five?

Let me tell you a story of two travellers. Sisters, in fact.

Traveller one, an unvaccinated child, returned to Canada from abroad with her two fully vaccinated parents. She was tested for COVID at the airport on arrival and sent home with a testing kit for Day Eight testing. The family was given instructions like, “Your child cannot attend school for 14 days,” and “If your child is interacting with someone from outside your household, they should wear a mask.” So basically the instructions boiled down to “be careful and please don’t go anywhere crowded.”

Traveller two, also unvaccinated, returned to Canada as an Unaccompanied Minor. Because she was not travelling with fully vaccinated adults, she is required to quarantine for 14 days. She was not tested at the airport on arrival, and was given no instructions regarding further tests. The printed instructions say things like “Only go outside on a private balcony or yard with those who travelled with you”, “Do not have any visitors”, and “Report daily on your health status by calling our toll-free number.” Apparently enforcement officers will call and possibly visit to make sure this traveller complies with the rules.

Now, I get why completely unvaccinated people should quarantine—and I support it. But what, exactly, is the difference between my two travellers, both of whom travelled from a place with fully vaccinated adults to another place with fully vaccinated adults? From a risk profile perspective, I see absolutely no difference. Is there a rational explanation?


R and N have arrived home, obviously. In case the quarantine enforcement officers are reading this, I won’t disclose whether they hugged me or for how long we cuddled on the couch (if indeed we did.)

Apathy · Keepin' it real · mental health · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day 646: Blah.

We’re all feeling it. Sluggish, tired, and—dare I say—bored.

I know I’ve talked about it a lot, but I’m still surprised by what passes for “daylight” around here. I miss the sun already.

I think I’m doing everything right: eating well (i.e. protein, fruits, and veggies rather than just the sweet stuff my body thinks it’s craving,) going outside a couple of times a day for fresh air and exercise, having a current creative project to work on. Throw in some snuggling and laughs and more hugs, and I think I’ve got the right recipe for feeling good despite the dark.

And yet, I don’t. Feel good, that is. I feel totally blah. What’s more, so do Mr. December and K.


We did E’s day eight COVID test this morning, online: using the kit we were given at the airport last Sunday, with supervision via video conference, I swabbed her nose and put the whole kit together to send. Ten minutes later an Uber was at my door to collect the test sample and deliver it to the lab. I’ll say this much for our government: they actually managed to make testing pretty easy.

It’s nice to see them doing something intelligently, because that’s certainly not been my perception of other COVID- and testing-related decisions our government has made. Sometimes it seems that they haven’t bothered to rub two brain cells together.

Take the “random” testing on arrival at the airport, for example. Three of us were selected for testing, despite the fact that we had all tested negative twenty-six hours ago. I’m not saying we couldn’t have contracted COVID while in transit—of course we could have—but if we had, what is the likelihood it would show up less than fifteen hours after exposure to the virus? Those three tests were a waste of everyone’s time, taxpayers’ money, and my inclination to cheerfully cooperate with the government’s COVID-related demands.


K’s birthday is this Thursday; E’s is the following Tuesday. We’ve already given K her gift—a weighted blanket—but haven’t decided what to give E yet. I’m leaning towards getting her a Kobo of her own, because everytime I sit down to read on my Kobo, she comes along and begs for it so she can read her books.

I wonder if I can load a birthday card onto the Kobo for her? That would be cool…

bikes planes and automobiles · Fibro Flares · Keepin' it real · Travelogue · whine and cheese

Day 642: Choosing (and using) the Chair

I know, I know: I haven’t blogged in days. We made it home from Galapagos without any major flight disruptions, but the two days of airports and travel led to a lovely fibro-flare (on top of the cold I already had,) and then I spent most of last night throwing up (not fibro-related.) So, you know, I’ve been busy.

I’m still not sure why I can hike up a volcano at high altitude but not manage two days of travel through airports. By the end of the second flight, though, my legs were painful and shaky; and we were in MIA again, which is miles of walking from one terminal to another. I told Mr. December to request wheelchair assistance for our next flight.

That’s where our travel went downhill: apparently, wheelchairs are commonly M.I.A. at MIA. Surprised? I’m not. We waited an hour for a wheelchair, despite the fact that there were forty or fifty of them not far away—apparently they’re owned by private companies and you have to wait for an attendant to push you the whole way. I’m not saying that’s an inefficient way to do things, but don’t you think it would be better if you could just rent a wheelchair the way you rent a luggage cart, and return it at the gate?

I really need to get over myself and the perceived awkwardness, and request a wheelchair before I start feeling crappy, as a preventative measure. I don’t have to be wincing in pain and limping in order to use a chair, I know, but somehow it feels like I do. When I got out of the wheelchair at the curb in Toronto, Mr. December chided me:

“You can’t just get up and walk away like that! You have to wait for me to shout, ‘BEGONE, ACCURSED DEMONS! I CAST YOU OUT IN THE NAME OF JEBUS! ARISE AND WALK! JEBUS HEALS YOU!’

I think that illustrates the problem nicely: we (as a society) still have a perception that if you get up from a wheelchair and start to walk, you were faking. So if I, feeling perfectly fine, walk up to a chair and get in… and then get up at the other end of the building and walk away, still feeling fine… did I really need that chair?

Yes, I did. I can say that because I didn’t take the chair from the outset, and I’m still suffering the consequences. My brain is foggy, my limbs are heavy, and all I want to do is go back to bed. I don’t even have the wherewithal to edit this post—sorry bout that.

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!

bikes planes and automobiles · Keepin' it real · whine and cheese · Worldschooling

Day 625: Just Barely Made It

I cannot believe it: we got to the airport four hours before our flight, and we only just made it onto the plane after the final boarding. 

MIA struck again. 

We got our new COVID tests (because the ones we had on Thursday were no longer recent enough, thanks to our cancelled flight) in about twenty-five minutes, including registering and waiting for our results afterwards. With three and a half hours left, we figured we’d definitely have time to eat dinner sitting down after we got through security. We went off to get our suitcases and then got in line for check-in. 

What a mess. The line was long, multiple airport employees were trying to control the line, which led to some confusion, and check-in seemed to take forever. Finally, we were ready to go through security. 

“Eema? I need to go to the bathroom.”

Mr. December and I looked at the kids incredulously. “We were just sitting around waiting for half an hour, and you wait until NOW to need a bathroom? Okay, fine, but let’s hurry. The security line looks long.”

For reasons unknown, certain children of ours took about ten minutes in the bathroom. When they finally emerged, we walked swiftly to the entrance to the security line. It was so long that people were queueing up down the concourse. We followed the line past stores and bathrooms, up a ramp, around the corner… we must have walked 800 metres to the end of that line. 

The TSA security people were brusque and allowed no dallying—none. One of our bags was missing, we were trying to figure out where it was, and the guy was like, “Move! Keep moving!” Um, ya think you could just say “I have your bag”? 

Anyhow, we finally made it through security. We went to find our gate before getting some food; when we got there, there were only a few people in line and the screen said “FINAL BOARDING CALL.” We hurried to get onboard. No dinner for us. 

But we made it.