Keepin' it real · what's cookin' · whine and cheese

Day 878: On the Edge

I finished making a small trial batch of jam this morning—it was delicious. So I sent Mr. December and the kids out to harvest more plums so I could make more jam. The kids all had excuses for not doing it, but Mr. December persevered and brought in a bin full of plums.

I knew it would take a long time to pit and chop the plums, so I settled at the table with a giant pile of fruit on my left, a measuring cup and empty bowl on my right, and in front of me, Outlander playing on my laptop. Two and a half episodes later, I had five liters of sliced plums in front of me, sticky elbows, and tears in my eyes (season 2 episode 7 is a tearjerker. Ye’ve been warned.)

I poured the plums and sugar into the biggest pot I have; they came almost to the top. Meh, I thought to myself, they probably won’t boil over. I’ll live on the edge.

They boiled over, of course. And they probably will again tomorrow, since I’m supposed to boil and cool this jam four times before canning it.

A large soup pot with a foamy, lumpy yellow substance in it right up to the rim. It has boiled over and there are plums and syrup on the stovetop and the counter.

In happy news, my brother-in-law walked in today and asked, “Does anybody want my old phone? It’s an iPhone 8.”

“I LOVE YOU!” I shouted and limped down the stairs.

You may be as appalled as my kids are to learn that I’m using an iPhone SE… first generation. As in the one that came in between the 5 and 6 (I hear there’s now an iPhone 13.) I can never quite justify to myself getting a new phone. Mine works. But a better camera is a draw, and you can’t beat free.

I probably should have asked him if the phone is unlocked, but I guess we’ll find out when I insert the SIM card.

Update: my head feels fine, so no after-effects of yesterday’s frisbee to the head. My knee is not so lucky, having been pulled in some way when I launched myself into bed last night. Ow.

Keepin' it real · whine and cheese

Day 877: Go ahead, laugh.

Just to give you a little timeline recap here:

October 2018: Really nasty ear infection keeps me in bed for nearly a month.

December 2018: Terrible back pain sidelines me for a couple of weeks; during this time a medicinal marijuana gummy causes me to lock myself in the bedroom until I come down, because I don’t want the kids to be alarmed at how I’m acting. (Crazy. I’m laughing at absolutely nothing. It’s not pretty.)

January 2019: As my back is slowly improving, I get back into dance. At one rehearsal I take a blow to the head; the resulting concussion has me sidelined for months.

February 2019: I’m putting on my shoes when a violin case, slung over someone’s shoulder, hits me in the head—in the same spot as the original concussive blow.

May 2020: A tree branch falls on my head in my own backyard. Ouch.

June 2022: I hyperextend my knee while playing on the trampoline with E and am consequently sidelined from most of my summer activities.

So that’s the history we’re looking at when I tell you to go ahead and laugh when you hear the latest:

I got hit in the head with a frisbee at Mr. December’s company picnic today. I wasn’t playing frisbee, I didn’t walk into the middle of a frisbee game… I was just standing there, talking with some of my husband’s coworkers, when I felt a dull thud at the back of my head and saw the frisbee fall to the ground.

After a moment of mild alarm, and a sigh shared between us, Mr. December and I could only laugh.

“What are the chances?” was his comment.

Pretty much 100%. If someone was going to get hit by the frisbee, it would be me. Obviously.

Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure I’m fine. A bit of a headache (not where I got hit today, but where I got hit in 2019,) but otherwise no hint of a concussion or anything serious or sinister.

whine and cheese

Day 876: Ow!

I’m lucky, I know. I have access to an excellent physiotherapy facility and insurance that helps pay for some of it. I’ve been doing physiotherapy twice a week; and while my range of motion is getting better, and my knee is less wobbly than it was, the pain is (paradoxically) getting worse.

I don’t have an explanation, other than to say that my physiotherapist recently started massaging various knee-adjacent parts of my leg, and she really digs in deep. We’ll be having a lovely chat, her elbow two inches deep in my hamstring, when I’ll suddenly interrupt the conversation with “OW!”

Now, the pain during physio sessions is somewhat expected, and I don’t mind gritting my teeth for the sake of a full recovery; but the last two sessions, I’ve been in pain for the rest of the day. Today it was bad enough to be distracting.

“Maybe you should keep off it,” Mr. December suggested. It’s as good an idea as any—I could maybe use the time to do something productive, like, I don’t know… homeschool planning? We start in less than a month and I’ve done nothing.

Keepin' it real · Kids · well *I* think it's funny... · whine and cheese

Day 873: I Got A Trophy?

No, there’s no trophy. I’ve won no prize. In fact, I’ve lost… muscle mass.

Cartoon drawing of a gold trophy. The plaque on its base reads "Biggest Loser... of muscle."

That’s right, I’ve got atrophy. Not a trophy. (Kids, take note: proper spacing between words is important. So is proofreading.)

Today at physiotherapy I learned that traumatic knee injuries cause the brain to send fewer electrical signals to the quadriceps muscle (I kind of want to know why, but I need to go to sleep early tonight—so no rabbit holes for me,) and as a result, there’s muscle loss. It’s visible enough that I was slightly alarmed when my physio pointed it out.

A cursory Googling tells me that this kind of atrophy won’t be reversed by simply exercising the muscle. I’m guessing that’s why I spend half of my physio session with electrodes stuck to my leg, doing squat presses in time with intermittent electric shocks that make my quads contract.

And I thought my knee brace was loose because it had stretched somehow. Nope, my leg really is smaller.

In other news, the kids are big enough to do actual housework now—E took out the garbage, recycling, and compost; N vacuumed the floors (badly, though); R took care of the dishwasher. Of course, they also make 90% of the mess around here. I miss the clean and quiet of my house when I had just one child (while the others were at camp.) I missed the kids more, though, so I guess I’ll keep ’em.

gardening · Keepin' it real · whine and cheese

Day 871: It’s Joey o’clock!

There’s a guy on our street who does lawn care; he used to do ours. Joey is meticulous and takes pride in his work, which is basically why we fired him ten years ago—we felt he was too expensive, and asked him just to run the lawn mower over our grass and not worry about any of the trimming, blowing, or sweeping; he refused on grounds that he has standards.

I lose track of the days sometimes: homeschooling (and travel) means that we have very few externally-imposed routines of weekdays and weekends (aside from Shabbat.) Still, there’s one event from the outside world that anchors the week for me. It also aggravates the heck out of me, coming as it does around dinnertime every Sunday. I’ll be sitting peacefully in the hammock when I hear an engine rev and smell gasoline fumes. “Oh,” I’ll say, looking up, “is it Joey o’clock already?”

a cartoon clock face with the small hand on 5 and the big hand on 12. Instead of the numbers 4, 5, and 6, there's a cartoon guy with a loud leaf blower.

Joey o’clock stinks—I don’t mean that metaphorically. His lawnmower, trimmer, and blower are all gas-powered; they produce smelly fumes and about 85 decibels of noise. And given that Sunday afternoons and evenings are prime sitting-in-the-backyard and having-a-barbecue time, I have plenty of reasons to hate it.

Sadly, gas-powered mower bans and no-mow lawns haven’t yet caught on in this corner of the city; a pristine, weedless, clipping-free yard is still de rigeur, so there’s nothing I can do about Joey o-clock… for now. Like the chapel bells at the Lutheran seminary that woke me up every morning in fourth year university, it’s just another (annoying) reminder of the passage of time.

Keepin' it real · whine and cheese

Day 851: It’s Never Simple

I’m sitting at a table in the Brampton Public Library, Springdale branch—which is a beautiful building, I must say. Sadly, there are a lot of reflective surfaces and the main floor echoes a lot. Why is it so hard for architects to understand that acoustics matter as much as aesthetics (maybe more)?

I’m here because K and E are at horseback-riding camp nearby. It’s a 40-minute drive from home, so I was clearly not going to make the trip twice; I brought work along with me, figuring that I’d be able to focus without any of the distractions from home.

It was a logical thought, and I was right about being able to focus. On the other hand, the work is proving more difficult to complete than it has any right to be.

I start by submitting claims to my health insurance for my physiotherapy sessions and my exoskeleton (a.k.a. knee brace.) I fill out the online form and press “submit”, at which point I get this error message: “We are working hard behind the scenes to improve your experience. Thank you for your patience as we restore all services.” So much for that task.

So I turn to a different insurance issue—medical claims from our travels in Costa Rica. The doctors there billed our insurance directly, so I have no receipts or invoices, and we dealt with two different medical practices. Our insurance is trying to claim back some money from OHIP, so they want me to fill out a couple of forms and mail them back. This is all fine and good except that I have no idea which visit they’re asking me about in this form, nor do I know the name of the doctor we saw or even the name of their medical practice. Can I just fill in our OHIP numbers and send it back without any of the other information? I’d contact them to ask, but they only have a phone number (no chat option,) so it’ll have to wait until I’m not sitting inside the library.

I’d also love to be able to submit a claim for R’s orthodontic work, but apparently I have to mail them a paper form first (I don’t understand why. Anybody in the insurance field want to explain to me?). Which is all fine and good, but my orthodontist already filled out a “universal” form, which is very similar (but not identical) to the form the insurance company wants me to fill out.

Can I just send in the form that the orthodontist gave me? I’d rather get confirmation that I can before I mail it in. So I go to the chat portal and open up a chat window. I wait in queue for 25 minutes (it’s ok, I’m doing something else) to chat with an agent, who asks my name. Then she informs me that she can’t talk to me about this account because I’m not the policyholder. Nevermind that I’m named on the policy and that the claim is for yet another named dependent. Nope, can’t talk to me unless I’m Mr. December.

UPDATE: Success! I’ve finally put through my knee-related medical claims!

Final score: Perverse insurance gods-2, Sara-1.

Why is no task ever just simple?

Keepin' it real · Kids · well *I* think it's funny... · what's cookin' · whine and cheese

Day 840: The Kids’ Menu

I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking of dinnertime: a home-cooked meal is laid out on the table before us. Six places are set, the water has been poured, the kids have been called to the table. And then somebody says whines it:

“There’s nothing here for me to eat!”

It doesn’t matter that we’ve deconstructed dinner down to its plainest components: sauces are on the side, there’s always more-seasoned and less-seasoned meat, there’s always a bowl of rice or pasta or potatoes. One or more of my kids will eat absolutely nothing on the table.

Mr. December and I have gone over this so many times. The bottom line is that if the kids aren’t eating the food anyway, it doesn’t matter how healthy the meal I’m serving is. It’s not going to get into their bodies by osmosis. The point of eating dinner as a family is to sit together, eat together, and make conversation. Maybe I need to let go of what I think they should eat, and just serve what they will eat.

(See? I’ve been should-ing all over my kids again. That rarely ends well.)

With that in mind, I’ve developed the following menu:

Image of a fancy menu, text reads as below the image.

Individually-portioned applesauce cups
Freshly caught Goldfish pungent with all-unnatural cheese
Choice of raisins, cranberries, or scurvy

Homestyle Toast Flambé served with an assortment of gourmet spreads
Delicate shards of taco shells masquerading as chips
Tropical-fruit-flavoured Skittles

Assortment of cold cereals with or without fresh milk
Factory-baked bread with salted butter
Ontario’s finest cheapest ice cream

Our favourite frozen oven fries, delicately salted with your tears
Cigar rolls of deli-sliced turkey breast floating in ketchup
Jell-o snack cups garnished with Fruit You Won’t Eat

Challah liberally sprinkled with superfine Redpath sugar
Plate of local basswood honey with an optional side of gefilte fish
Egg noodles and Turmeric-scented mini croutons in a clear chicken broth

Whatever you want, served in whatever dish is still clean
Those three bites of freezer-burned leftover ice cream cake from your last birthday
Leftover challah

Get it your own damn self.

Just the two of us · Uncategorized · whine and cheese

Day 835: Patience

Yesterday a friend told me that she aspires to the level of patience that I have. She must mean when I’m interacting with my kids; there’s no way I could be seen as patient in any other context. My sense of time is very much divided into “now” and “not now.” When is summer? Now. When can I go out and do things? Not now. And since we’re always living in the present moment, “not now” can start to sound a lot like “never.”

I can’t count the number of times Mr. December has said, “Just give it two or three weeks” in response to my speculation on how I might be able to go out in the kayak sooner rather than later. He’s so logical and reasonable—I hate it. He’s often right, and it drives me crazy, because I can see that he’s right, but something in me still disagrees.

That’s probably why my impatience has taken my browsing history in an unusual direction: mobility scooters. Just like in second-year university, when my solution to the problem of a very bad, very long fibro flare was to get myself a wheelchair so I could go back to university and finish the term, I’m looking for a way to reclaim some semblance of the summer I’d planned. A bad knee only stops me from walking, the logic goes, so if I find something to do the walking for me, I can still go places and do things. After all, why should I stay shut inside my house for weeks on end when I could be out and about with my family?

Extreme? Maybe, if you’re the patient type who can wait out an injury without going stir crazy. But for my impatient self, it seems like a decent solution. Too bad Mr. “Just give it two or three weeks” disagrees. But then, as the story of how we started dating illustrates, one of us can bide their time while the other just keeps champing at the bit. Nothing has changed in the last twenty-four years.

whine and cheese

Day 834: Slipping Away

You know, It’s all fine and good to make the best of the situation, to do things I wouldn’t have gotten around to doing, call people I haven’t spoken to, declutter the house, and so on.

But it’s summer here, and Toronto summers are short; I can feel this one slipping away from me already. I doubt I’ll be able to ride my bike until August at the earliest; I don’t think I’ll be hiking much, either. And while kayaking doesn’t require weight-bearing on my leg, getting the boat in and out of the car kind of does. In any event, I probably won’t be able to get in and out of the boat without re-injuring myself for at least a couple of weeks.

In other words, I’m stuck. And kind of bitter. I can’t even go to the park with my kids in the evenings. Sitting outside on the porch is lovely, to be sure, but it’s not enough for me. I want more. I want to do everything I anticipated so eagerly all winter and spring.

Summer is happening out there, and I’m missing it.

Camping it up · community · whine and cheese

Day 830: Packed up

R and N are going to camp on Wednesday. Their bags are going up on Tuesday.

Packing was a pretty big ordeal last year. This year we did it in a day, plus a few hours. There are now four giant duffel bags on my floor, making it pretty hard to get around here on my crutches.

I’ve used crutches a lot. My childhood BFF came over yesterday, took one look at me, and said, “Oh, the crutches are back!” Between all the sprained ankles I sustained, plus the knee ligament I pulled on Grouse Mountain, she’s seen me on crutches at least half a dozen times when we were younger. I don’t remember crutches being quite so awkward or painful to use, though. I remember stumping my way through the hallways of my middle school, going from one class to the other every forty-five minutes. Thirty years later I’m exhausted just getting from my hammock to the bathroom and back.

I navigate the stairs only once a day, coming down in the morning and going up at night, which is why we did all the packing right on the living room floor. And, since I can’t exactly stand up and drag it to the car (or even the front hall,) on the floor it all stays until tomorrow.

Did any of you get a call from the ligament injury specialist’s office today?

Me neither. So much for that call from the ER doc on Saturday morning, when she said she was getting me an appointment for Monday afternoon and I should expect a call from the office on Monday morning telling me when to show up.

I’m also sitting here feeling very proud of R tonight. Despite my immobility and her siblings’ indifference, she committed to volunteering at the community orchard’s cherry harvesting night. I’ve noticed that her anxiety seems to disappear when she’s responsible for something, and she really does like to take charge. When I was at the hospital on Friday, she made all the challah (she had to enlist some help for the heavy kneading.)

Maybe, if we can’t get her an emotional support alpaca (her dream,) we can find her a few more leadership opportunities to reduce her anxiety. Or chores around the house—that would do nicely.

(And did I mention she brought home at least four litres of sweet cherries?)