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Boo had an eye appointment yesterday and it was great. It was almost a year ago that we found out her eyesight was dreadful (the doctor admitted today that when she first came in, she was legally blind). When she first got her glasses, they improved her vision to 20/200. That was the good number, which really upset me.

Today, with her glasses on, her vision is 20/30. Unbelievable. And she still has a couple years of improvement, since the doctor says we have until about age 7 before her eyes will no longer change for the better. But 20/30 already! I honestly never thought she’d be able to see that well, ever. It was a good day.

So now we get to go get new glasses. Yay! Her old ones are scratched and battered, so it is about time anyway. She’s excited about picking out new frames. I’m excited about her eyesight improving enough to justify new glasses.

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I had something written about Hanukkah – of which today is the last day and yet I am sure I will still be hearing “happy Hanukkah from well-wishing but clueless acquaintances until the 25th – but I keep not getting it posted and now it is over, so I think I’ll treat it like the minor holiday it is and ignore it. Is that a run-on sentence?

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I just read in the paper that Matthew Perry, Zach Ephron and Michelle Trachtenberg are going to be staring in a new movie called 17. According to the blurb, it is about a dad who gets zapped back to being 17-years-old and goes to his daughter’s high school, for unexplained reasons, and his daughter develops a crush on him.

I think if pretty Zach were to take a look at the photo on the link to Perry I provided, he’d think twice about agreeing to be this guy’s younger self. But beyond that point, may I just add an very hearty, very sincere EEEEEWWWWWWW!!!! What kind of sicko came up with that plot idea? I know a zillion girls think Zach is just the biggest cutie ever, but are they really going to want to see a movie in which the concept is that their dad could have once been the biggest cutie in school? And the whole daughter/dad thing – it’s just way too incesty. Blech.

And what’s with the girly boys? Zach is all over my daughter’s wall and he’s prettier than his girlfriend. I don’t think this is an entirely new thing, because I remember reading some deep analysis once that said young teenage girls like girly boys because they represent unthreatening masculinity, but I personally never got it. My first crush at age 13 was on Harrison Ford, who was gruff, crabby and scarred. I still have a crush on him.

I can’t wait to see what kind of hits those tags get me.

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It was one of those perfect winter days today, where the snow fell in big, slow flakes and made everything look beautiful. There was no wind and it was mild. I took Jasper for a long walk, then got the kids and when we got home, Asher and Boo played outside for a long time with the dog. It was idyllic and fun and helped me breath properly again. Here are pictures. Lots of pictures.

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He loves to smush his whole face in the snow.

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I don’t want to go on about it, but the reason it was so nice to watch everyone romp around was that my cat, Theo, died yesterday at the age of four, very suddenly. He developed crystals in his urine, his bladder got blocked and his kidneys were damaged beyond help by the time I got him to the vet. He died in my arms shortly thereafter.

He was a marvelous cat. He was utterly-unfeline-like in his friendliness and love of everything. He purred at his vet appointments. At one, he had to take a medication that had the side effect of calming them down and when the vet walked in, he was lounging on her counter, purring happily. She said, “Wow, that stuff really mellows them out sometimes.” I told her, “He hasn’t taken it yet. This is just his personality.” Even my mother liked him, and my mother hates cats.

I miss him so much.

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J is off gallivanting around the world again for the next week. This morning, I got the kids to swimming lessons and snuck off to have a shower myself while they were supposedly being watched by their instructors. I say ‘supposedly’ because when I arrived at the end of Boo’s lesson to get her, she told me she didn’t learn much this time because she lost her instructor for a while, but eventually he found her. In the pool. I told the guy at the first lesson that without glasses my kid is blind, but it doesn’t seem to have sunk in. Either that, or he has the same problem. We’ll be chatting about it tomorrow.

Then we popped off to friends for brunch, where my kids were pretty well-behaved, I think. These friends only have one kid and she’s still wee, so the amount of noise and destruction she can cause compared to my kids is light years apart. I remember having people over with more than one kid when I just had sweet little Maya and watching in horror at the chaos. I hope we didn’t do that to them. Fortunately, my kids like to eat. After announcing he wasn’t hungry. Asher ate a pancake and four helpings of lasagna.

Then, it was off home to make Hanukkah cookies. I’d promised the day before. I was so bloody tired, but couldn’t see when else to do it, so soldiered on. The house is already a mess, of course. But we shoved aside crap in the kitchen and made the cookies. Dinner was order-in pizza, now that the non-gluten guy is out of the country. Afterwards, we decorated, adding icing sugar and many types of sprinkles to the chaos. These are some of the finished product:

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Here is poor Jasper watching us play and play with food and give him none, poor boy. He’s using a teddy for a pillow, so I had to take a picture.

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Asher knocked an entire container of thawed strawberries on the floor. Someone else knocked over thawing beef in the fridge, so now the fridge has been bled on. Maya dropped Jasper’s full bowl of food on the floor, and for one the damn dog decided that floor food did not interest him.

We realized after dinner but before decorating that Asher had not finished his Hebrew project for Tuesday. That wouldn’t be so bad were it not for the English project he hasn’t even considered beginning that is due Wednesday. There was no point in even trying to get any work on that. He can’t handle academic stuff at the very best of times in the evening, and having been promised cookie decorating is not the very best of times to suggest homework.

I have a point to all this. As I was singing Boo to sleep, I was reading yesterday’s Globe and Mail. I read Karen von Hahn’s column, in which she postulated that people who have children young are perceived as older, over-the-hill, compared to their peers who have small children. Her last line is this: “Who needs plastic surgery when you can be as young as you feel, thanks to artificial insemination.”

Is it just me, or is this woman completely insane? She has this idea that having kids when you are older makes you feel younger. Obviously, she is one of those women who had her kids when she was younger and, at 40-ish, is happily waving them off to university.

Gee, I wonder who feels younger – von Hahn, who is looking into the rest of her 40s having done the difficult work of childrearing and wondering what to do with her time – take a cruise with her husband? Throw herself further into her career? Train to run a marathon? After all, she clearly still fit and young enough to do whatever she wants. Or me, who is looking into the rest of my 40s filled with parent-teacher interviews and forgotten projects, kitchens with florescent yellow icing sugar dripping off the walls and the first child careening into adolescence like a runaway locomotive?

I wonder who looks younger – does the flour from the cookies dusting my shirt and the sprinkles in my hair age me? Or is it just the frazzled expression, the 40-year-old skin having gone unmoisturized and 40-year-old hair uncut for months because I’m too tired and don’t have the time.

I’m not really complaining, not really. I knew what I was getting into, although I never actually planned to have a kid at 36 years old. I am truly happy I had my children in my 30s rather than my 20s. But how can any woman who has actually raised children, as von Hahn has, be so utterly deluded as to think that raising small children in one’s 40s makes a person appear or feel younger? Those little shits age you, and they age you twice as fast when you are already older.

Anyway, I can see the dishes piled up in the kitchen from here, so I think I’ll just go downstairs, put on Family Guy and do some knitting. Maybe the dish fairies will come clean everything.

Jasper just discovered a kleenex box was in reach, and neatly hopped up to take one for himself. (He likes to snack on them.) Here is a picture, because he is the cutest dog ever, and don’t you forget it.

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Like all parents, when my first baby was born, I looked forward to many milestones – first word, first sentence, first steps, no more diapers. As they grew, I even looked forward to ones like outgrowing the annoying car seat, being able to open the fridge by herself. The one I didn’t expect until it was upon us was learning to read.

That was particularly slow of me, given how central reading and writing is to me. Maybe that is why – it seems as natural a breathing. It isn’t, though. It is work.

Boo, my last baby, has just figured out the key. Reading isn’t just a switch – one day you can’t, the next you can. But, at least with my kids, there has always been one day when the kid suddenly gets running those sounds together. For the longest time – desperate to read – Maya would sound out words like ‘cat’ as cuh-ah-tuh and then run it together as ‘cuhatuh.’ Then she’d get frustrated and take a wild stab at it – “Chicken?” It was hard not to laugh, I admit.

She spent a long time in the ‘cuhatuh’ stage, not quite getting it. And then, one day, she did. And I realized that the whole world had just open up to her. I teared up, I admit.

It was somewhat harder for Asher, in that he didn’t care, and somewhat easier, in that he didn’t care. He didn’t kill himself at it the way his sister did. But one day, about a week before he was to enter grade one, I decided it was time to see if he could get phonetics. We sat down with Hop on Pop, and he Got It.

Having never really thought about it before, he was wildly delighted to realize that he could actually read.  I’ll never forget the excitement with which he raced up the stairs to demonstrate to his dad that he could actually read. Unfortunately in his case, it immediately got difficult and figuring it out has been a struggle ever since. It just doesn’t seem to come naturally to him, much as he wants it to.

But with Boo, whether it is because she is a third child, or a lucky one, it has happened with the greatest of ease. She figured out the alphabet by herself. As we went through the grocery store when she was 2 and 3 years old, she’d say, “I see my letter! I see Bubby’s letter!” Only later did the letters get their own names, and she already had a good idea of their sounds.

A couple of weeks ago, while I read to the older two, Boo was looking at one of her own books and suddenly said, “puh-ah-tuh … pat!” I cheered, “Boo, you just sounded that word out!” She was delighted, and has been sounding out everything she sees since then, with varying degrees of success.

So last night, I dug out Hop on Pop. And she read it. She even took little leaps, like sounding out ‘see’ as ‘suh-eh-eh’ and not running it together as ‘seh’ but ‘see.’ The best part is her utter delight. She was so excited I had trouble getting her to stop (it’s a long book) and go to sleep, then she showed up bright and early this morning in my bed insisting on continuing the book.

Later, when I insisted on cutting her fingernails, she said, “Okay! I can read while you do it!” She grabbed a book and picked a word, then said, “Buh-uh-tuh-tuh-on. Button! Button? I always thought it was ‘buttin’! Wow, this reading thing is really cool.”

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I found my camera, but still don’t have any pictures of snow-puppy. I do have pictures from Boo’s birthday party, now a couple months old. But here are a couple anyway:

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She wanted a gymnastics party, because as far as she is concerned, if you can’t climb it, jump on it or jump off it, it is no fun. For those people who are deluded into thinking that at least girls are calmer than boys and don’t treat the house like a jungle gym, I invite you over to my house to witness Boo do things like leap from the top of the bunk bed like a spider monkey to the floor. Or worse, to the rocking chair.

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Here are several of the kids waiting for their turns. The tall boy in the white shirt is Boo’s boyfriend. Isn’t he cute? Well, actually, turns out he’s one of her boyfriends. The little guy behind him is the other one. Too bad you can’t see him better, because he’s cute too.

We discovered this the other day when Boo announced, “I have a boyfriend and D has a girlfriend!” Odd way to put it, but we’ll play along. “Who are they?” Maya asked. “Well, I’m D’s girlfriend and C is my boyfriend.” We pointed out that it sounded like she has two boyfriends and she was just delighted with that notion. I’m going to have to watch that one closely.

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Someone just found my site by googling “what judaism means to me.” I find this odd. It doesn’t seem to be the sort of thing the internet is going to tell you. Speaking of, we took the whole family to synagogue this Saturday and plan to continue. We fell out of the habit at our old shul because there was nothing to keep the kids engaged, making the whole experience increasingly unpleasant. We are back on the wagon, though.

Asher threw a huge fit because services bore him silly. In truth, I sympathize completely. Just sitting and not being allowed to doodle, or knit or read something else at the same time is difficult for me as well. He solved his problem by refusing to enter the sanctuary, wandering around the rest of the building until he found a friend. I solved the problem by reading the Torah (and commentary) in great detail. It was actually quite nice. I think we all enjoyed the experience more than we expected to, which is good, because we are determined to make this a regular activity.

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Jasper has started intermediate training at Petsmart, where he did the beginner class. Same instructor too. She is great. He’s learning to stay longer, wait (which is different than stay), and heel. Heel is the one I just couldn’t quite figure out on my own. I did have a go at it now and then, and something must have sunk in, because he got it the moment I tried and while other dogs are making it 4 or 5 steps down the aisle before bolting, Jasper makes it up one aisle and down the other. Of course, it helps that he is brilliant.

Our latest move is teaching the dog to ‘touch.’ “Touch ball” is this week’s command. Every time Jasper pokes the ball with his nose or paws at it, he gets a treat. At first, he found me waving the ball in his face very annoying and tried to bite it. But he soon clued to. The instructor has great plans for ‘touch,’ like teaching the dog to turn off lights or pick up their own toys and put them away (I asked if I could bring my kids to the next class, so she could teach them that trick too).

This class is smaller than the beginner, not surprisingly. There are only 4 other dogs. One is a tiny little poodle, which I find odd. Most dogs in training classes are large, I guess because most people aren’t concerned about being able to control something that weighs only 7 lbs.

Last class, we went out into the store to work on something – the instructor likes the distractions – and as we exited the training room we passed a girl about 20 years old. When she spotted Jasper, she yelled, “Wow!” Then she followed us. She watched the training session, commenting repeatedly on how beautiful my dog was and how much she loved him. As we headed back to the room, she told me in a voice of complete sincerity, “I just love your dog so much that if I could, I’d steal him.”

I was glad to be going into the training room and away from the crazy dog stalker, but she followed us in! She sat beside Jasper and kept trying to pat him, but he was having none of it. I don’t know if he independently decided she was nuts, or if he was picking up vibes from me. When the class ended, I confess bolted ahead of the others, leaving the stalker trapped behind the other dogs going out the door, and then quickly left the store, double-checking that no one had followed me from the parking lot when I left.

There’s the down side to having the most marvelous dog in the world.

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More snow! Yesterday, I fell asleep instead of taking Jasper for his walk, which resulted in him barking at gremlins he insisted were out in our backyard at midnight. In a few minutes, I will tackle all the fresh snow and take him out. He’s adorable leaping about in the snow (I’ll see if I can find my camera to demonstrate), but trying to dry him off is a nightmare. And yet, I cannot bear to cut his fur down more and reduce his teddy-bearness.

The first snow of the season is always a logistical nightmare, no matter how organized I think I am. I brought up dozens – no exaggeration here – of mittens, and yet yesterday morning none of them could find any. I have no idea where they all are, and I am pissed off. Asher insisted his snowpants fit, but they don’t, but he won’t upgrade. Asher and Maya need new boots, as do I.

I didn’t think it was urgent until I picked them up from school and Asher presented me with soaking-wet boots. Really, they could not have been wetter if he’d thrown them in a swimming pool. I guess waterproofness wears off?

So we were off to the big show store near here, along with maybe half the city. Three children and a huge shoe store after school is my idea of hell, and every year I manage to get trapped in it. Thankfully, we found boots for the boy very quickly, because he was the urgent one. None for the girl, though. Poor Maya – the problem with being tall is that the clothes appropriate to your age don’t fit your body. She wanted cool, colourful kids’ boots, but she wears women’s size 7 (or 8, depending on the fit). In the women’s section, we were faced with rows and rows of stylish black boots. We finally found some she liked and they had a rough seam running right over her ankle bone. How stupid is that? So she still needs them. I didn’t even try to look for me. I’m not a total masochist.

The snow makes me want to knit. I just want to sit in front of a nice fire and knit. Instead, I get a row or two done while singing lullabies or waiting in the car for the school bell to ring.

Currently, I am knitting:

hats and scarves for the AG dolls (2 hats done so far)

a sweater for Asher that I started last winter, really big, but if I don’t get my butt in gear on it, he’ll still manage to outgrow it before I’m done.

socks for Maya – one finished.

socks for Boo – one finished.

a baby sweater for the friends whose baby arrived 4 months ago.

a scarf, probably for Asher.

I just got lovely wool and a pattern for a winter hat for me, but have resisted starting it. Don’t know how long I’ll last, though.

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Snow! Snow! Woo hoo, snow!!

Okay, I don’t actually feel that way, but the children – both human and canine – sure do. In the backyard before school, Asher tried to make a snowman out of the perfect, sticky snow, but every time he got the snowball to a decent size, Jasper lunged at it, ripping it to pieces. Asher couldn’t even be angry with him, it was so funny.

Snow that actually sticks to the ground caught me by surprise. I’ve been meaning to go get a decent pair of walking boots for my treks through the woods with Jasper, which I have no intention of stopping just because it is winter, but haven’t yet. Now I have to go out today. And remember to load blankets in the car to protect it from wet dog.

At least I’m pretty much organized for Hanukkah, which in itself is a Hanukkah miracle. I still have to finish knitting the cute little hats I am making for the girl’s AG dolls. I got one hat finished in the time it took to attend a Judy and David concert, even though I had to pause to stand up and spin like a dreidel, and eat Boo up like a yummy latke, etc.

Judy and David, for those not in the know, are a Canadian singing duo for kids, based in Toronto. They do concerts all over North American, but aren’t exactly the level of the Wiggles in popularity. They are, however, marvelous. My kids have been into them for a long time and, even though the older two passed on being seen at one of their concerts this time, they are happy to play their CDs at home.

They have lots of clever stuff, like spoofs on fairy tales and fun music that teaches math concepts. But the reason I really love them is for the looks on my kids’ faces upon discovering that Judy and David have a CD called “Matzah Ball Rock” and a Hanukkah show. Not do Judy and David, who are, like, way famous (because they are on TV!), turn out to be Jewish, but they have a whole concert aimed at Jews! Whoa. Blows them away.

The show really was great. David came out dressed as King Antiochus (the big baddie) and ordered the audience to bow to him, then started to cry as the children yelled out, “No way! We aren’t listening to you!” Then Judy came out as Judy the Maccabee and called him King Anti-tuchus (tuchus being the Yiddish word for your bum).  I thought Boo was going to choke, she laughed so hard.

My favourite part of the show was getting to watch Boo’s face as she watched the show. That’s always what I like best when I take the kids to any live show. They are so engaged, dancing and singing and their faces are pure joy.

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