Camping it up · Kids · parenting · snarky · whine and cheese

Day 413: Quaint.

It’s that time of year again: time to fill out all the camp forms for the kids. Most of them are time consuming, but no big deal. Where I always get stumped, somehow, is at the immunizations.

For those of you who don’t live in Ontario: we have this antiquated system of keeping track of our immunizations. It’s this little yellow trifold card that we (or the doctors) fill in by hand with the date and which vaccines were given. That’s all I have to refer to when the camp asks me for the dates of every vaccination the kids have ever had. I’m sure the doctor’s office has this information in the kids’ files (which are, thankfully, now all computerized,) but that information doesn’t get shared with anyone. Not with me, and not with public health.

That’s why, when each of my kids was enrolled in grade one, I got a letter from Toronto Public Health threatening the kid’s suspension from school if we didn’t provide records of vaccination. The first time it happened I was baffled; The second time I was annoyed; and the third time I was fed up. Apparently after the doctor vaccinates the child and enters the information into their computer, the parents have to go home and enter the same information into the Toronto Public Health website… every single time the kid gets a vaccine. You’d think there’d be some way to opt-in to your doctor sharing the vaccination records with public health—but you’d be wrong.

Honestly, I have flirted with the idea of just telling the school and public health that I’m not vaccinating my kids on conscientious grounds. Of course I’d still have them fully vaccinated—I’d just be saving myself the duplication of labour.

Today as I put in the kids’ vaccination dates I noticed a few… irregularities. I had no record of K being immunized for chicken pox, even though I’m positive that we’ve never declined a vaccine that was offered. That’s the sort of error that comes of having the parent and/or doctor forget to update the quaint little yellow vaccination card. Now I’ll have to call the doctors’ office and have them spend even more time on this issue by generating lists of the kids’ vaccinations and emailing them to me (at least I hope they’ll email them to me, although most doctors won’t actually email confidential medical information. That’s why doctors here still have fax machines, another quaint reminder of a bygone and less efficient era.)

All of this to say that there has GOT to be a better system for sharing this information. A unique PIN for each child, perhaps, that the camp can input into a database to confirm that the child has had all required vaccinations? Something? Anything to advance our public health system past the days of carrier pigeons and fax machines?

Booster shot for Ontario's vaccination policies | The Star
Image description: an Ontario Immunization Record Card. Yep, we’re on the honour system, it seems.
DIY · el cheapo · Fibro Flares · Homeschool · whine and cheese

Day 412: The Devil’s in the Details

Fun fact: in Hebrew, “shed” is the word for “demon.”

Not-so-fun fact: It’s pretty much impossible to find a prefab shed that meets my needs.

Coincidence? I think not.

Last autumn and over the winter, Mr. December and I discussed having the kids design and build a shed with us as part of their homeschooling: it would involve geometry, arithmetic, and physics, and they’d get firsthand experience in how houses are built. But that plan seems a bit laughable right now, when just installing three display cubes on N’s bedroom wall has resulted in more elbow pain… and we still have another five to install. Don’t get me started on the pile of IKEA furniture in E’s bedroom that has yet to be assembled and mounted on the wall.

It’s an odd twist on one’s eyes being bigger than one’s stomach. The idea of building a shed from scratch excites me, but these days it’s feeling pretty likely that I’d go into a fibro flare somewhere around the second or third day of construction and be unable to finish the job. A prefab shed seems like a decent compromise: we’d get to do some building without having to think about (and then execute) things like stud spacing and roof pitch.

I’m encouraged by the fact that my kids now do useful work without arguing about it first. Tonight K finished cutting up all the branches Mr. December pruned off our plum tree; N bundled them neatly, tied them with twine, and put them at the curb for pickup. Their competence gives me just a little hope that they could make themselves useful for shed building, too.

But first I’ll have to find a shed to build, which is harder than it sounds. Most of the prefab sheds have six-foot sidewalls, which is a bit low for my purposes (woodworking; using giant saws on big, long pieces of wood.) For eight-foot walls I’d have to go to a custom shed place, which puts the price up around $10K for a 108 square foot shed. Or we could go with the alternative: build our own shed from scratch… which I’m pretty sure would be its own unique form of torture.

Fibro Flares · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day 402: I Am Not Throwing Away My Shot

It’s been a week since our provincial government decided to allow people ages 40-55 to get the AstraZeneca vaccine. I’ve seen selfies of one friend after another getting their first shot. Meanwhile, I’m on four (maybe five?) waiting lists for an appointment. We’re not in a hot spot, so I can’t just head over to those clinics; at this point I think I’m going to have to phone every pharmacy every morning until a spot becomes available.

Is this really the best we can do? There has got to be a more sensible way to distribute vaccines. Like, literally any other way. I’m having a hard time imagining a worse system.

I also wonder how many people there are like me—who aren’t bedridden or in a high-risk category—but still don’t have the stamina or strength to go stand in line for two hours outside an arena in hopes of getting one of the day’s coveted 1000 doses. I mean, I guess I could do it, but it would mean worse fibro symptoms for days afterwards with no guarantee of a shot. Doesn’t seem very practical, does it?


In good news, my legs hurt a lot less today and my energy was up. I can also proudly say that I got quite a lot of school done with the kids this afternoon and they actually produced some good writing work. I finished arranging the piano part for our new ensemble piece, and started teaching E how to read music. Vaccine annoyance notwithstanding, today was just fine.

blogging · family fun · Keepin' it real · whine and cheese

Day 401: Noise Pollution

This is my fourth draft for tonight. I’ve been trying to write a heartfelt post about how glad I am that Friday’s post made so many people feel seen and understood. But Mr. December and the kids are watching some foolishness on our the new TV, and it’s way too loud for me to think.

I was afraid of this. We’ve watched far more TV than we would have if we had to watch upstairs in the attic or on one of the computers. It’s too much. Maybe it’s time for me to hide the remote and push everyone outside—although that also has the potential to fail the way it did today.

It’s springtime, which I know not because of the calendar or the weather, but because my neighbour’s lawn care guy is back at it, spending thirty minutes using a leaf blower to make sure there are no grass clippings anywhere on the lawn. It’s the same leaf blower as in years past: gas-powered, smelly, and obnoxiously loud. And it’s the same time slot as last year, too: between 4:30 and 5:30 on Sunday afternoon, A.K.A. right when you want to be outside with your family.

So of course today when I declared that there would be no more screen time until everyone had spent at least an hour outside, we opened the back door to the sound (and smell) of the leaf blower. Grrr.

Short of petitioning City Hall to ban leaf blowers (or at least the gas-powered kind) there’s not much I can do about that; but the TV noise is a problem of my own making. Can anyone remind me why we bought the TV? I can’t remember anymore. Or maybe I just can’t think of it over the sound of YouTube on the big screen.

Darn Tootin' · family fun · Fibro Flares · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · Resorting to Violins · whine and cheese

Day 383: Doin’ it with flare

How does one homeschool their kids in the middle of a fibromyalgia flare-up? It turns out that the answer is: as little as possible, as honestly as possible, in as much comfort as possible.

It was a gorgeous day today, so I pushed all of us out the door and to the nearest park. We did our workout on the playground equipment. At one point N got lazy and started lolling around on the climber instead of doing the exercise. I set him straight: “Listen, mister. If I can do it today, then you sure as heck can do it too. Get moving.”

I find one of the most difficult things about fibromyalgia is gauging how hard I can push myself. Exercising during a flare-up doesn’t do any damage to my body; it just hurts. So I guess the question is how much pain I feel like tolerating, given the expected payoff. Going to the park with the family improved my mood substantially, but it didn’t help my pain level at all.

Mr. December worked on chemistry and math with the older kids while I helped E with her writing, reading, and flute (which is going really well, by the way.) The rest of my morning was spent ordering groceries on Instacart and sitting in a hammock alternately reading and spacing out.

The kids joined me in the living room to discuss their next writing assignment. I stayed cocooned in my hammock with my furry blue blanket and patiently answered all their questions. Then I went upstairs to lie down for an hour. I have no idea what the kids ate for lunch, but I think it’s safe to assume that if they were hungry they would have eaten something.

We reconvened in the living room after my nap and I read aloud about Ancient Greek democracy. Then, for art, I asked them to bring over all the sketchbooks and markers and introduced them to meandros, those Greek key designs that you can draw without lifting your pen (did you know the word meander comes from the name of a river in Asia Minor? I was today years old when I learned that.)

By 2:30 I was done. I went to the back porch and cocooned myself in the outdoor hammock for a bit of a change. Groceries arrived around 4:00 and I dispatched my child labour force to bring everything in and put the perishables away. Dinner—rotisserie chicken and potato wedges from the supermarket—was at 5:00 and by 5:30 the kids were clamoring for more screen time.

“Not until you’ve practiced your instruments,” I stared levelly at R and K, “You haven’t done that for a week or so.”

I’m proud (and a bit surprised) to say that both R and K went off and practiced on their own. After a while K invited me to join her on the back porch for her practice; shockingly, she was very receptive to my suggestions and did some really good work.

And now here we are, after an hour of British reality TV about kids of varying backgrounds having playdates at each other’s homes (E loves this show,) and I’m about to tuck in three of the four kids.

Everything still hurts, possibly more than this morning. But I did it—I managed to preside over some learning, music practice, and dinner, which feels like a massive accomplishment right now. I think a warm bath and a cup of tea is what’s needed now, and then maybe if I get lucky somebody will tuck me in.

Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Keepin' it real · whine and cheese

Day 367: Here it comes…

Passover.

It used to be my favourite holiday. Then, with each passing year of seders filled with people who really just want to stop the talking so we can eat already, my enjoyment of it waned. Now it feels like something to get through, a change that I’m not happy about. Will this be the year I start really enjoying it again?

You know what I say, the key to happiness is lowered standards. So this year I’ve decided that if the kids enjoy the seder and participate in it, that’s good enough for me. Dayenu.

I found a program plan online for a series of puzzles, each of which has an answer that opens a particular kind of lock. There are five locks, and the fifth one opens a container that holds the afikoman. I have all the locks (one directional, one four-letter-word, one four-digit code, one three-digit code, one keyed) and need only to print out the various instructions and cards and so on. Hopefully this keeps the kids engaged.

Then again, kids aren’t usually the problem. It’s generally the jaded adults who want to just “get on with it.” For that problem I haven’t found a solution. I’ve tried compiling my own haggadah (which worked, sort of) or bringing in humorous parodies (those went over like a lead balloon.) Last year after another disappointing seder I downloaded a bunch of seder table games for this year. If only I could find them…

And don’t get me started on Pesach cleaning or turning over my kitchen; we’re terribly under-equipped for Passover, given that my mom has a whole Passover kitchen at her house and we’ve always had the seders there (and then happily taken home the leftovers to eat all week.) I guess it’s time to be a grownup and get my own Pesach cookware, isn’t it?

family fun · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · whine and cheese

Day 366: Why won’t they play with me?

Yesterday evening I did something I’ve never done before. I actually bought a computer game.

We’re a board game family. Not the ones we all grew up with—Monopoly, Sorry, The Game of Life, Trivial Pursuit—but the newer European games. Everytime we learn a new game, I want to play it over and over. It’s a little like how babies and toddlers like to repeat activities until they’ve mastered them. Unfortunately for me, after the first few games nobody wants to play with me anymore.

It happened with Agricola. Then with Terra Mystica, Azul, and Samurai. For the last few weeks I’ve been reduced to outright begging.

“Anybody wanna play Wingspan with me?”

*crickets*

Obviously I needed a new tactic.

“Hey guys, guess what? We’re going to do some ornithology for homeschool today!”

“You mean we’re playing Wingspan, don’t you?” K was on to me. “Abba is the science teacher. I don’t think this is in your department. And we don’t want to play.”

Darn.

Finally—finally!—Mr. December sat down and played Wingspan with me yesterday afternoon (I’m pretty sure it was a pity game, but beggars can’t be choosers.) After two games I was just starting to hit my stride, but he was already all played out. How am I supposed to get better at this game if I only play two games a month? I groused inwardly.

A couple of hours later I found myself googling “where to play Wingspan online?”. When I saw that there was a version on Steam (a gaming platform) that got rave reviews, I decided to buy it. It was cheaper than a movie ticket and I already feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth; when Mr. December was out with the kids this afternoon I was glued to my desk, laying eggs and foraging for worms and rodents.

Many, many games later I’m finally feeling like I have a decent grasp of the strategy. But it’s a little lonely playing solo. So… anybody wanna play Wingspan with me online? Anybody?

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

Day 357: I won’t stop now.

With the exception of (I think) three days, I have posted on this blog every day for almost a year. Even if I wanted to stop (and I don’t think I do,) it would make sense to keep going until day 365 so I can say I did a whole year.

My hands seem to have other ideas. My carpal tunnel syndrome is back with a vengeance and I’m pretty sure I should avoid typing as much as I can. There is dictation software, and I could try to use it, but my desk is on the landing overlooking the living and dining rooms; I’d feel a bit self-conscious knowing that everyone could hear what I’m dictating.

But it would be absolutely ridiculous to stop so short of the one-year mark… so I won’t. Instead I’ll warn you to expect shorter posts for the next week. After that, I’d feel okay about a short hiatus.

Fibro Flares · whine and cheese

Day 348: I broke my own rule.

It started very innocently—and things that start this way are usually fine—but I got yelled at by someone who had zero evidence behind her claims and was making assumptions up the wazoo; I responded to clarify something and they cranked up the verbal aggression. I left the exchange and blocked that thread, but it was too late: I had broken my cardinal rule of Facebook, which is “Don’t engage, no matter what.” I felt awful emotionally but also physically (Apparently that’s an ADHD thing) and ruminated on it longer that I should have.

(Let’s be clear: I should have ruminated on it for a total of zero minutes. Just in case you were wondering what “longer than I should have” means.)

Mr. December talked me through some of it. I was pretty calm by bedtime, having put it out of my mind… or so I thought. Apparently it was still bothering me. I lay in bed, taking deep cleansing breaths, visualizing beautiful scenery, focusing on relaxing my muscles. It didn’t work quickly, so I kept at it…

For five hours.

My CPAP machine had been running the whole time because (of course) I was planning to actually sleep. It recorded five hours of operation, which meant five hours of me trying to fall asleep and failing. I’ve heard all the advice about how you should get up for a bit and do something, but my body was too tired to get up; only my brain was awake.

Mr. December woke up at five or so in the morning; we talked a bit and snuggled a bit and I eventually fell asleep around six. I woke up for the day at 8:30.

That means last night I got a grand total of… (drumroll, please…) two and a half hours. At most.

When I put it that way, I’m a total badass for still standing upright. My body doesn’t seem to think of it that way, though. Fatigue is one of my biggest fibro flare triggers. That’s why I’m going to go treat myself exceptionally kindly, with a cup of tea and a walk outside in the sunshine, and then let the kids tuck me into bed by 8:00. I hope that after twelve hours of sleep my body and brain will be almost fully functional.

crafty · DIY · Fibro Flares · Keepin' it real · whine and cheese

Day 345: Where did the weekend go?

Maybe it was all the sugar from the Purim treats, followed by the challah and dessert at Shabbat dinner. Maybe it was exhaustion from being woken up 1:00 a.m. on Friday and then having insomnia at 4:30 on Saturday morning. Maybe it was a fibro flare. Whatever it was, it left me achy, groggy, and mentally foggy.

After my 4:30 a.m. wakeup on Saturday I tried my best to be awake with the kids for a while, but I lost the battle with Morpheus around 8:30. I woke up for a couple of hours around noon, then went back to bed until seven. When we got into bed at ten that night, I fell asleep almost instantly.

You’d think that almost a full day and night of sleep would leave me feeling refreshed, wouldn’t you? Well, you’d be wrong. I woke up this morning feeling not much better.

“I don’t know why I’m so tired,” I yawned to Mr. December, hugging him in a bid to be able to sleep for a millisecond or so.

“Me neither,” he said, “I don’t understand how it’s possible to sleep that much. It’s just not normal!”

I’m not generally perturbed by being labelled “not normal”—it’s practically my superpower at this point. As far as I’m concerned, normal is either a myth or boring as heck. But if normal is going to sleep at night and waking up refreshed in the morning, I want a piece of that.

I hate weekends like this because I generally come out of them feeling useless. Doubly so today because Mr. December was teaching the kids evolutionary biology and some chemistry while I puttered around trying to stay awake. Seriously, he’s Superdad. He’s working a full-time job remotely and spending two hours a day homeschooling the kids, then even more hours planning his lessons and looking for new resources. I’m in awe, and very lucky to be married to this guy; but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel pretty useless standing next to him… until something needs fixing, or something has to be made or built or baked. Then I’m a total rockstar.

To keep myself from feeling like the entire weekend was a waste of time, I worked on fixing N’s window shade. It’s a cheap vinyl roller shade to which I had glued some cotton fabric. The glue didn’t last very long, though, and for months it’s looked pretty crappy, with the fabric kind of dangling uselessly from the middle of the roll and the sticky residue on the vinyl shade attracting every dust particle that flew by.

This time I used clear school glue to paste the fabric to the vinyl. That was step one. I hung it back up to dry; tomorrow I’m going to use some slightly diluted glue as a topcoat, the way I’ve done with Mod Podge in the past. Then I just have to turn the edges over and glue them to the back of the shade, and I’ll be that much closer to being able to give you the tour of N’s room.

It’s bedtime and the only thing I’ve achieved this weekend was that darn window shade. I didn’t even do my lesson planning, which means I’m going to have to pull something together in the next five minutes so the board is updated when the kids come downstairs tomorrow. And then I’ll go back to bed, where I haven’t been for a whole five hours.