Today, the kids had a doctor’s appointment, and so it was the perfect opportunity to ditch school, forget all routines (including the breakfast-get-dressed-pack-lunch-out-the-door-for-the-bus routine) and just have a fun day. We started it in the best way possible: no 6:30am alarm.

Still, we were naturally up by 7:30 and didn’t need to leave the house until 10:00. After breakfast, Noah and Leila immediately went outside to run laps around the house and bike. In the past, that would have been something they might do just for fun, but this morning, it was tinged with competition. Leila had brought home the infamous “Cubes énergie” booklet. All three of my kids have done this. Basically, it’s a school-wide competition for being active. For every—get this—15 minutes of physical activity that the child does, he or she colours in a cube in the booklet. If a member of the child’s immediate family participates with the child, each family member also accumulates an energy cube for the school child.

So yesterday, before dinner, all three of my children were at the neighbour’s house running on a treadmill and jumping rope like furious rats in a cage, all for the sake of colouring in cubes in a booklet.

In case you can’t read the above sentences dripping in sarcasm, let me tell you straight out how much I hate this program. They have turned playing outside and being normal, active children into a competition with prizes.

Anyway…while Noah and Leila were training for a marathon, Zahra was in front of my computer, starting an online program that we will use to learn Arabic. The kids used to attend “Arabic School” on Saturday mornings, but it just wasn’t a good fit for our family. I searched around for a while, but every other option was missing something. There are lots of books and CDs and online programs, but let me tell you: I have a German course on CD that’s been sitting on my kitchen counter for months. And it will likely sit there for many more months, because after days like mine, the last thing I’m thinking at 10:00pm is, “hmmmm, maybe I should start learning a foreign language that I’ll likely never put to use.” Sigh. That’s no reflexion of the high esteem I have for German, by the way. I’ve been wanting to learn this language since university, where I did take two semesters of German. It’s just clearly not a priority right now.

Back to Arabic. I found Arab Academy online, and what stuck out to me was the fact that my monthly membership fee would include two live (via Skype) speaking lessons per week. How great is that? The live, native speaker element is key, I think. And the accountability of having to “show up” twice a week for lessons will be good for us. We signed up for a free class, instantly loved it…and then sat on that decision for another few weeks until the 20% off coupon popped up in my email.

So now we’re learning Arabic online, and our teacher Amal will give us live lessons twice a week. Pretty exciting!!

Zahra worked through some of the lessons online until it was time to go to the doctor’s appointment. The kids’ pediatrician is in Ahuntsic, dating back to the days when we lived on Rue Fleury. Because my kids are generally healthy, and because I’m not inclined to drive across the city for someone to weigh and measure my kids once a year, we had let those annual check-ups slide…for a few years. As the secretary curtly reminded me, we hadn’t been there since 2013. Oops.

So today they had their annual appointments and, more importantly, Zahra got a referral for allergy testing. What once seemed like seasonal allergies has become nearly constant congestion, and in the past few weeks, she’s had weird, random episodes of extremely itchy chest and neck (with no visible rash). Time to get some answers.

We put in our time at the pediatrician’s office, met the “new” secretary and intern, and then scooted out of there as quickly as possible to have lunch downtown. I wanted to take the kids to Byblos, my magical find for Iranian fare. I had discovered this place on the Plateau during one of the kids’ downtown sports days. We ate soup and chicken and a rice dish. There was okra, which they each tried obediently, but all three hated.

And we got to see benches being installed.

We left the restaurant to return to the car, parked a few blocks away. Zahra said that after all the walking we did to the doctor’s office and the restaurant, that should count as one energy cube, times four because we were all walking. Sigh.

energy cubesBack in the car, we were on our way to our last stop of the day: the Aquadome in LaSalle. I’m not a huge fan of swimming pools (sharing a warm bathtub with dozens of strangers with the heavy smell of chlorine hanging in the air), but my kids love swimming around in other kids’ pee, so I make the effort. We swam, played alligator, cannoned out of the waterslide—for about two hours. That’s 32 energy cubes, folks!

Back home, while I made dinner, the kids scattered to things that would refuel them: Zahra to her violin, Noah to the rope swing in back (and then to test out the chicken diaper he made), and Leila to a hot bath.

We ended the day with a reward for braving city traffic: our Wonderful Objects box was waiting for us. This subscription box is, as its name suggests, wonderful. The theme for our box was “you make your own luck”. Among the things in our package were an archival print, playing cards, seed bombs to attract lucky ladybugs, a rainbow money box, a lightbox and more. We had fun making up phrases for the lightbox, and then we got down to serious business: playing a few games of spoons followed by Old Mail. After a round of Old Maid, we switched it up. The Joker became Gollum, and whoever was left with Gollum in the end was the winner, not the loser.









We’ll keep going with the contents of this box for a few weeks. The parent guide has so many fun questions to ask the kids to get us started on storytelling and also on just thinking about the meaning of life. Sounds deep, but kids are so curious and so inquisitive and so want to talk about things like this. During our card game, for example, we discussed the question: Do you feel that kindness can make a person lucky?

We also decided that we should play at least one round of cards after dinner every night. So next on our homeschool agenda: learning the rules of hearts.

Unfortunately, no energy cubes will be earned.

One last win for the day: Leila finally used air quotes correctly. It’s been a long time coming.