better homes than yours · DIY · el cheapo · hackin' it · whine and cheese

Day 495: Cheap Imitations?

“I have big plans,” I informed Mr. December. “I’m going to rope K into my crazy, harebrained scheme and we’re going to do it when you’re out of the house.”

You might be wondering why I told him at all; I was wondering the same thing two seconds after I finished speaking. That’s me, though: when I’m excited about something, I can’t keep my mouth shut. Except for that time we threw my parents a big surprise party for their anniversary… but that was really, really hard.

Back to Mr. December. “Does it involve wrecking a perfectly good table?” he asked.

How did he know? “Maybe a little…” I admitted.

I don’t know if I ever told you that we have a new-to-us dining room table. It’s not the fancy epoxy table, and it’s not the custom wood table with the tree-shaped legs either. I’ve known this table for most of my life, as it’s been sitting in the boardroom of my Dad’s office for the last twenty-five (or so) years. It’s the exact size and shape that I wanted, and it was free, which means I can throw my table fund into twelve beautiful (and matching) dining chairs.

Besides, you know I’m happier when I’m hacking furniture, right? This table is—like most office furniture—really nice wood-look formica over particle board. But I have big plans here: remove some of the laminate (probably a meandering river down the middle, but who knows) and pour a very thin layer of blue epoxy into the resultant gap. I think it would look extremely cool.

Speaking of cool, my mum brought these beautiful chairs to my attention:

Image description: a chair with chrome legs and a transparent blue plastic molded seat. There are ripples emanating from the centre of the seat. It looks like water.

When I saw them—and when Mum told me how comfy they are—I started looking for them online. I found what I thought was the right chair on Overstock and Wayfair; but when I read the reviews, many of them said the chairs weren’t very durable. I found this strange since my Aunty (in whose kitchen the above photo was taken) told me that the chairs still look untouched even with all the abuse her dogs and birds dish out.

So I ran a Google search on the photo of the chair. Sure enough, there appeared to be two different companies making a nearly-identical product. Of course, I couldn’t tell which was which except by the dimensions; in typical Wayfair manner, they’ve given the chairs a name that is completely different from the model name on the manufacturers’ website. Sure enough, though, one of them is slightly bigger and presumably more durable. It definitely gets better reviews than its doppelganger.

This kind of thing makes me crazy. It’s obviously designed to make it impossible for customers to comparison-shop, and in that it succeeds; but if I ordered a set of chairs and they turned out to be the cheap imitations, I’d be pissed.

So how am I supposed to know? According to the online retailers, I’m not. I guess this means I have to email actual bricks-and-mortar furniture stores around here and ask if they still carry these. And if not… do I take my chances and order 12 online? Or do I order just two online and risk them selling out before I can buy more?

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

Day 494: It Was “Only for Now”

I cried when I got this text message:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

el cheapo · whine and cheese

Day 492: I don’t subscribe to this model.

Warning: I’m about to date myself. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you’re a young’un and you should just sit down and listen. Okay?

Remember how in the good old days, you could go out and buy music and then it was yours? You held it in your hand, you could take it home, and then thirty years later you could pull it out and play it. (Why yes, I do still have my copy of Madonna: The Immaculate Collection from when I was twelve.)

Now everything is by subscription: we pay every month and in the end we actually don’t own anything. If the world went post-apocalyptic tomorrow, I could still listen to all our CDs. But if the internet and everything in it went down, and I had no CDs, there’d be nothing to listen to. I don’t own my music, even the stuff I paid for.

It actually bothers me less with music than with computer programs. Apparently you can still buy (and own) Microsoft Office 2019, but there will be no more updates. If you want a more updated version, you have to pay to maintain a subscription. Thank goodness for Google Docs and Sheets.

There are a lot of niche-type programs I use. I subscribed to PicMonkey so that I could do some more advanced image editing to make K’s bat mitzvah logo; I kept it because I do find my way onto it every now and then for other small projects. Is it useful? Yes. Is it ten-dollars-per-month-if-I-want-to-keep-access-to-my-original-files useful? No, probably not. I should really look into just buying a copy of PhotoShop… assuming one can actually be bought, and not just subscribed-to.

I use music notation software to arrange our ensemble pieces for homeschool. I’m making do with the free version, because I can’t stand the thought of another subscription. I did actually subscribe to a music education program, but at least we’re using their resources all the time. I have a Kobo Plus subscription because, with four Kobos, it’s a lot cheaper than buying those books for our whole family; it’s even cheaper than the late fees we’d incur if we borrowed hard copies from the library. To be fair, we also borrow e-books from our library through overdrive, and that’s great, but the Kobo Plus subscription is worth it for us.

But you see the problem: almost any niche interest or hobby that I have can be improved by using software, but I have to subscribe to it forever and ever, or I lose my stuff. These companies have got to be making a mint off this.

So no, I do not subscribe to this subscription model. Bring back actual ownership, I say (shaking my fist wildly.)

See? I’m dating myself.

family fun · Keepin' it real · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day 482: I don’t trust them.

I’ve been avidly watching the weather forecast, looking for a clear day to take E kayaking at the beach or maybe even to a waterpark. And for the last week and a half, my phone has showed me the same sort of thing:

Image description: screenshot from the Weather app on an iPhone. The forecast shows rain or thunderstorms almost every day next week.

This screenshot is from tonight, but it’s pretty representative of the forecast I saw last week at this time, too. Rain. Rain, rain, storms, no sun, rain.

(And yes, it’s a mirror image of how you probably see your phone, because Hebrew is read from right to left. I set Hebrew as the main language on my phone so that I could keep up my reading skills and expand my vocabulary. In a happy coincidence, it also makes it hard for the kids to use my phone. But if they really, really want to use it, they can learn some more Hebrew.)

My problem isn’t the rain. I mean, sure, it’s not what I would have wanted, but it’s not The Weather Network’s fault that it’s rainy. What I am mad at them for is that their forecast is just plain wrong, or at least misleading.

Every day this week was supposed to be rainy—no sun in the forecast. What actually happened was that we had a few very nice, warm, moderately sunny days; several of those days had about an hour of rain, but that was it. I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I think when I look at a forecast like the one in the above picture.

Because of the forecast, I didn’t plan any outings. Worse yet, I decided to go get my second COVID shot this week because I figured we’d be stuck in the house anyway, and I could cuddle up to E and watch Spongebob just as easily when I’m feeling ill as when I’m well. No sense wasting a beautiful summer day letting my immune system do its thing when I could do it on a rainy one instead, right?

As it happened, the weather was reasonably nice the day after I got my shot. E asked me to go for a bike ride that I was pretty sure I couldn’t manage; that’s when I called my parents and asked them to rescue E from boredom and me from having to parent. Thank God for my parents (although they’re setting the bar pretty high for me to meet when I’m a grandparent one day!)

So now I’m looking at next week’s forecast—cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms—and wondering whether I can trust it. Should I just go ahead and plan the outings anyway? Do everything last-minute? I don’t know what I should do. What I do know is that I just can’t trust The Weather Network any more.

Camping it up · family fun · Keepin' it real · whine and cheese

Day 472: I thought I was done.

This morning, the kids’ bags left for camp.

I’m done, I marvelled, and with two days left!

Please don’t laugh at me. I really thought I was done. And then some stuff came up:

  • I realized that R’s allergy medicine had the prescription label on the box, but not on the bottle inside it. Even worse, the allergy eyedrops had the same problem… except that I’d already thrown out the box.
  • Camp called to tell me that two of my kids were missing their Varicella vaccines (only fully vaccinated kids are allowed at camp.)
  • I remembered that we hadn’t packed the kids’ toiletries, books, stationery, flashlights…
  • It dawned on me that I hadn’t packed N’s rainboots… because they never arrived after I ordered them.

So instead of sitting around and relaxing with the kids, I found myself doing the following:

  • Calling the pharmacy to get refills of R’s medicines, this time with labels on the boxes and the bottles inside them. As it turned out, there were no more refills for the eye drops, but the pharmacist agreed to print an extra label for me to put on the eyedrops. (Have I mentioned that I love my pharmacy?)
  • Waiting patiently while the nurse at our doctor’s office combed through the scanned paper files from years ago, trying to find the kids’ varicella vaccine dates. It took upwards of twenty minutes. (Have I mentioned how bad the vaccination reporting system is here?)
  • Sitting on each kid’s bed and directing them to find such diverse things as hairbrushes, water bottles, toothpaste, and books; labeling the things as the kids brought them to me, and packing them so that they (barely) fit into one backpack and one toolbox per kid.
  • There wasn’t much I could do about N’s rainboots. Fortunately, I got a text at 8:00 tonight saying that the boots had just been delivered to my front porch. I wouldn’t call it perfect timing—that would have been this morning before the bags left for camp—but it’s good enough. I managed to jam the boots into N’s backpack.

Now I’m done. I think.

I did manage to get some relaxation time with the kids: tonight we all went up to the attic and watched The Simpsons while snuggling on our giant beanbags. It was sweet.

Know what else was sweet? The kids build one of their epic couch forts again. Sure, my living room is unusable for actually sitting, but they worked together for hours today; and right now all four of them are snuggled up in their own cozy fort rooms for the night.

bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · Keepin' it real · whine and cheese

Day 471: Every. Single. Time.

Mr. December is the “fun” parent. He loves running around with the kids, roughhousing, and playing pretend. Play is totally one of his parenting superpowers.

I prefer to sit on the sidelines. Partly because playing pretend makes me feel like my brain is leaking out of my ears, but also because roughhousing usually inevitably ends with me getting hurt.

And yet I let myself be drawn into it. Mr. December and the kids will be laughing, tumbling around, and having a grand time; Then I’ll get a text that says, “Come join us?” Or he’ll call out, “Why don’t you come and play?” and then the children will start clamoring for me to join the game. It’s flattering, but I really need to learn to withstand the flattery lest I end up injured.

It’s a fine line I’m walking. On one hand, I want my kids to be bold and resilient; I want them to try things and do things and persist. I want them to have grit. Rightly or wrongly, I don’t feel like I’m modeling grit when I opt out of things like roughhousing or family hikes. I know that I’m doing it for the right reasons, but I don’t know whether they see it that way. On the other hand, I’m modelling self-care and limit setting. Right?

At least the injuries I sustain while playing with them are visible, which makes it easier for me to feel like the kids understand. Like the time E watched as a branch fell on my head, aggravating my concussion; or like every time I join them wrestling on the bed and then someone’s (very hard) skull connects with some part of my body; or like what happened tonight.

We rode our bikes to a nearby park. I gamely played “The Floor is Lava: Special Rules,” with my special rule being that my shoes were magically lava-proof (for those who don’t know the game, my special rule meant that I could just stand around and do nothing.) Then Mr. December and I called for everyone to join a family huddle so we could decide what to do next.

I don’t know how it happened. One minute I was standing there, waiting for everyone to gather, and the next I was falling to the ground, sandwiched between two of my kids. Thank goodness the ground there is covered in wood chips; I would have been much more scraped up if I’d fallen on a hard surface. I got up and wiped away the blood oozing from a scrape near my knee.

And then the ache started. I can only surmise that I fell pretty hard, onto both my arms and my right leg. It’s all hurting right now—not excruciatingly, but I’m definitely aware of the pain.

I’m promising myself that next time I will stay at least six feet away from my family when they’ve been playing. I just never know when the game will start up again with me at it’s centre. And when it does, I’ll be the one who gets hurt. It happens every single time.

fame and shame · whine and cheese

Day 466: How does this make sense?

A prominent association of children’s authors and illustrators recently put out a statement condemning the rise in Antisemitic hate speech and violence. The statement was, I thought, very well written. It contained a link to this article about how Antisemitism forms the core of White Supremacist ideology. Below is a screenshot of the statement, or you can find it here.

Isn’t that nice? Well, it was, while it lasted. But then SCBWI came out with an apology and stated that their Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, who was responsible for the original statement, is resigning over this issue.

I am both baffled and floored by this turn of events. It feels like an “all lives matter” moment, doesn’t it? I keep trying to find more background information, to find the missing piece of the puzzle that will make me say, “Aha. That explains everything.”

The best I’ve been able to find out is that after the post denouncing Antisemitism went public, one author asked when SCBWI would denounce Islamophobia, and subjected the organization’s social media to a barrage of anti-Israel and Antisemitic posts. She was blocked and all her posts deleted. There were harassment accusations both ways.

The organization’s apology did say, “WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU” in big shouting all caps, so I decided to write to them. This is what I said:

I am writing today to express my shock and dismay about your recent apology following SCBWI’s statement against Antisemitism.

Perhaps there has been some kind of misunderstanding; but to me and many others it looks like, faced with pressure from a Palestinian Muslim author and their supporters, you apologized for saying that Antisemitism is wrong.

This is an “all lives matter” moment: as with Anti-Black racism, it is acceptable to stand behind one group without having to acknowledge and list the many other groups who are also marginalized, which you apparently know because you failed to affirm your stance against Antisemitism in your apology.

It was spineless of you to not to stand by your Inclusion Officer’s decision as she tried to prevent the turning of a condemnation of Antisemitism into a platform for Antisemitism, which—if you even skim the complainant’s tweets—you will no doubt see.

If I were a member of your organization, your apology would make me feel neither included nor safe.

I urge you to clarify that you were apologizing not for condemning Antisemitism, but for your handling of the subsequent complaints. Acknowledge the pain your actions have caused your Jewish members who now feel unrepresented, silenced, and marginalized. Reiterate that you stand firm against Antisemitism, as you do against all forms of hate.

There is definitely a part of me that thinks I should keep my big mouth shut, delete this blog post so it can’t attract haters, not send that email. But if we all keep our big mouths shut our silence is interpreted as agreement; I can’t remain silent.

Camping it up · fame and shame · Kids · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day 465: Maybe it’s Time.

I’m thinking maybe it’s time to go back to the supermarket.

Since we came back from the cottage last October, we’ve been using Click and Collect and Instacart to get our groceries, meaning that I haven’t been inside a supermarket in a very, very long time. I’d be happy to continue that trend if it weren’t for how annoyed I get at the Instacart shoppers for not knowing the store like I do.

I ordered some kosher marshmallows (because regular marshmallows usually have gelatin which is either derived from pigs or horses.) Instead of the ones I ordered, I got these rainbow-coloured—non-kosher—jumbo marshmallows. I’m pretty sure the Instacart shopper didn’t even think to ask someone whether the kosher marshmallows might be somewhere else (hot tip—they’re in the kosher aisle.) Part of me is thinking How would they know? while the other part thinks that if they offer the product on the website, their shoppers need to know where to find it. Is it really that hard?

I don’t actually enjoy grocery shopping, though. Maybe if I lower my standards—and indicate “no substitutions”—I could still be happy with Instacart or Click and Collect. It saves me at least three hours a week.

I was feeling stressed today (no reason, really) so I did some pointless crafting with K. I bought the kids lockable toolboxes to keep their personal items in at camp, but they all looked the same—ugly. My first instinct was to spray paint them, but it’s so humid and hot out that I’m not convinced the paint would cure (and there is no way I can handle spray paint fumes inside the house.)

What’s better and campier than spray paint? Duck Tape! I spent far too much time getting it just right, but the results were gratifying. I’ll share the before-and-after pics once K has sent them from her phone.

N’s birthday is this Wednesday. Because the kids have to be in quarantine for the two weeks before camp starts (all the campers have been asked to do so,) we can’t have his friends over for a party. If I’ve gone overboard with the cake and ice cream and cones and sundae toppings, it’s no more overboard than I went for everyone else’s pandemic birthdays. I just want his birthday to not suck. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

DIY · IKEA · Just the two of us · Keepin' it real · Sartorial stuff · whine and cheese

Day 447: FFS

Today can be summed up in a single word:


Okay, fine. Not a word. But that’s not the point.

I had a day without kids today—a full day to catch up on all kinds of big and little tasks. I had plans.

I picked up the blackout roller shades I had ordered. The ones in the library looked pretty good (given that the library colour is hard to match) and they went up fairly easily once I understood the system. Too bad one of them seems to be defective—the rod isn’t working to raise and lower them. Strike one.

I then went upstairs to start installing the shades in my bedroom. I got two (out of four) of them up; then I realized that the curtains will catch on the roller shade mounting brackets, which doesn’t bode well for long-term use. Also, one of the two is malfunctioning the same way as the one in the library. Strike two.

“Just stop buying from IKEA!” Mr. December blurted in exasperation. “They have cool ideas but their window stuff doesn’t work!”

Oh, and while I was installing one of the bedroom shades, I bend down to swap out the screwdriver head (the alternate one was on the windowsill and I was on a stepstool.) I straightened up to finish the job and—THUD—hit my head on the top part of the window casing. Ouch. Strike three.

I prayed that this knock on the noggin would be nothing and I wouldn’t even have to mention it to anyone. My head had other plans, though. As I climbed off the stepstool I felt just a bit woozy—kind of dizzy, kind of “off”—and grudgingly admitted this might be a very mild concussion. I lay down to rest a while.

Tonight I’m shopping (seems like that’s all I do these days) for some clothes for Mr. December. He was jealous of my hiking pants last weekend, so I was ordering some for him. Also shorts. Then I saw that they had sundresses with pockets that I knew the girls would love, so I put those in the cart too. Swim shorts for N were $15. And so on, until I was ready to check out… at which point I realized that I was on the U.S. site, not Canadian, and that the fabulous sale prices were only available in the U.S.

Which strike is that? Four? I’m starting to lose count.

At least today is over, and four strikes in one day isn’t such a bad score; I’ve had much worse. I’m going to go make a cup of tea, enjoy some kid-free downtime with Mr. December, and then—


Just a minute—

“Hello? Oh, hi, Mum… they want to come home? Okay, sure… see you soon.”

Scrap that. Back into mommy mode. Kid cuddles, here I come.

DIY · Early morning musings · fame and shame · Keepin' it real · Sartorial stuff · whine and cheese

Day 446: In which I surrender to the sun.

Look, I’m not giving up, I’m…

Okay, fine. I’m giving up.

I no longer believe that the curtains in our bedroom are going to be able to keep it dark enough in the face of direct sunlight in the mornings. Right now it’s dark enough only because most of the windows are blocked off with cardboard (it looks really classy from outside, I tell you.) That’s not a long-term solution, not for me at least. Mr. December would just as soon paint all the window glass black and call it a day.

At the beginning of this whole saga, I could have just bought a few blackout roller shades and added some curtain panels on top to take care of those pesky lines of light around the edges. But no, I had to have something that looked good because our house was so cool. Roller shades were just so… blah. Not attractive at all.

That’s why I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but here goes:

I just bought blackout roller shades to install in our bedroom, behind the curtains, to help block out more of the light.

Yep, exactly the kind of shades I didn’t want to install in the first place.

See why I say I’m giving up?

In other sun-related news, summer is unofficially here—and with it, the first sunburn of the season. I hope my body at least managed to finally make some of its own Vitamin D. If I needed to draw a self-portrait in crayon or marker, I’d be able to use the one marked “berry red sunburn” instead of my usual (boring) “peaches and cream-would-do-wonders-for-that-redness-on-your-pale-face-you-know.”

Don’t worry, though, it only has to happen once for me to just wear a sunshirt if I’m going outside for the rest of the summer. Just like with returning library books, I’m too absent-minded to be trusted to put sunscreen on consistently.

If anybody needs me, I’ll be swimming in Aloe Vera gel.