Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Variety is the Spice of Life

My sweetie, who has been suffering a sore throat for a couple of days, gets out of bed, heads to the bathroom, returns. I check the clock - it's a full half hour after his usual wake time. He returns. I am still snuggled deep under the comforter, eyes closed, savouring the last three minutes of languor. I call to him from my cocoon. "You staying home today?" My eyes fly open when Lou Rawls answers. "Oh, yeah, I think so." I roll over to face him. "Come over here. I want to make out with a big black man." I close my eyes.

Christmas Crafts, 2

Advent Calendars! This one was a lot more work for me than the tots, but their parents will be impressed. They'd better be. Take bristol board, construction paper, ribbon, stickers, tape, scissors, and 144 teeny prizes. It wasn't cutting the calendars, nor even cutting out all one hundred forty-four little pockets, because you can cut a bunch at a time. Folding them was a bit more fiddly, because that has to be done one at a time, five foldes per pocket. My fingers are still sore from all that pressing. Punching holes in the wee doors that will cover the pockets was all right, because again, you can do a bunch per punch. It was putting them on the calendars. I measure, so they'd be placed evenly. Built a grid for each calendar. Then you stick them to the calendars. All one hundred forty-four of them. Sticking each and every one of them requires four pieces of tape, two to make the pockets, two to affix to the board. For each of every one hundred and forty-four pickets. 4 x 144 = 576 pieces of tape. Five hundred seventy-six. That's a LOT of tape. That happened the night before. And then they all got numbered. The next morning, the kids got involved, decorating their calendar with stickers. We love stickers!! (And before anyone asks, the cage on the table is not for a child, but for the budgie, Java, who has been suffering from the cold in his usual spot nestled against two exterior walls. He's on the table temporarily.) Harry shows Q, who was home sick that day, his handiwork. "See? See my calendar?" (Because since Arthur can see it, Q can, too, right? That's how it works when you're three - very Piagetian.) And even yet, we're not done. That evening, Emma and I put 144 teeny prizes into 144 teeny pockets, and then tied each of the pockets' little doors shut with - you guessed it! - 144 pieces of ribbon. Two knots each. My fingers are now knotted, too. I have SO earned me some decent Christmas presents, let me tell you...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Wolfgang Rolls Over

"I hope you like Mozart," says dad. Zach stomps along the hall carpet, holding a block in each hand. Not just any blocks, mind you; these are Baby Einstein blocks. A woman I met in the park this summer told me how she had been pigeonholed by an Earnest Mommy at a playgroup. "Do you have Baby Einstein?" EM queried. Never having heard of this line of toys, videos, books, CDs, and goodness knows what else, non-Earnest mommy thought she was joking. Gesturing toward her then three-month-old daughter, she said, "Oh, yes, a genius all right - an Isaac Newton in the works. Got that gravity thing down pat!" Dead silence. The Earnest, as we've noted before, have No sense of humour. Einstein blocks: One has the words of colours on five of its six sides. The other has pictures in the same colours on five of its six sides. Match the correct picture with the word, and a soft and joyous female voice identifies the picture and colour. On the sixth side of each block - the only sides in which young Zach has any interest at all - show three maniacally grinning cartoon animals. In tuxes. Grouped around a perspective-challenged piano. One waves a violin in a rather worrisome manner. When these two sides are put together, the blocks produce eight bars of Mozart. Disco Mozart. Mozart ramped up 30 beats per minute. Electronic, beeping Mozart. Mozart as produced by electronically enhanced manic chipmunks on speed. Yes, I do like Mozart. Love him, in fact. Which is why those blocks have been put away.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

I Have Some of the Nicest Clients

"Zach and I will be a little late, if that's not too inconvenient," Zach's daddy informed me from his cell phone last Friday. "We've just dropped his mother off at work, and now we have an errand to run. Will you be home in another half-hour or so?" Half an hour later, Zach and Daddy showed up - with the fruit of their "errand":

Pretty cool, huh?? Six feet long, it'll carry all the tots. Don't I have nice clients?? This shot was taken before I'd waxed it. Now that I've given it a couple of coats, I'll have it out this week. Watch for the pictures!
p.s. But not today - at least a cm of ice on everything, and more ice rain falling! Ick.

I Like It

The Movie Of Your Life Is An Indie Flick
You do things your own way - and it's made for colorful times. Your life hasn't turned out how anyone expected, thank goodness! Your best movie matches: Clerks, Garden State, Napoleon Dynamite

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Fun, wow!!

Just to show you that I do indeed take them outdoors! Even when it's nine below zero - which, on a gloriously sunny day like today, actually felt quite nice, thanks!

And when I do take them outside, I know how to show them a good time, let me tell you! As Henry Fonda said in "On Golden Pond", "What's the point of having a midget around the place if you can't put it to work?" (After which utterance his wife - Katherine Hepburn - walloped him, as I recall...)
What is it about small tots and shovelling? They absolutely can't get enough of it! When does the thrill of it leave? Right about the time that they become anything near useful at it, that's when...

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Long Haul is Over

Aren't these nice? Fun to have, fun to display, but the truth of the matter is, I'm only halfway through. Happily, I seem to be hooked, and even if this manuscript turns out to be the embarrassment I shove in a bottom drawer and never draw out again - much like my diaries from high school - it will have been instrumental in turning me from some one who was going to write a book "some day" into someone who has actually written one, no matter what its eventual fate.

I would like to write a really, truly, published book (or two, or more) one day. So this month has been the turning point, and the beginning...

The Long Haul has Just Begun

The Truth, the Whole Truth, You Didn't want the Truth...

"You didn't get out with the kids today? It's a beautiful day!" Disapproval drips from every syllable. Well, yes it is, Mr. Outdoorsman, Mr. I-Bike-for-Fun-in-the-Gatineaus, Mr. Winter Camping Guy. It's nice if you're on your own, if you can stride out at a pace sufficient to generate any heat. But you see, I don't get to stride. I have to toddle. And stop every ten toddled paces, take off my mittens, and wipe a nose or three. I will freeze my not-as-pert-as-it-once-was butt off if I go out there. In another month, ten below will be a nice mild day, but today, it's COLD!! I have not yet acclimatized to the dropping temps. I don't say that, I just agree and try to deflect. "It was a lovely day, wasn't it? All that sun! Here's the craft your son made - isn't it great?" "And you didn't get out with them? Was someone sick?" "A couple of sniffly noses, nothing serious. See how he's mixed these colours to make a third? He did that on purpose, you know." "I think it's important that the children get out every day." "Yes, I know." (Sigh. He's not about to be deflected, is he? It doesn't work all that well on his son, either...) "It just doesn't seem like there was a reason they didn't get out." "I wasn't feeling well today: headachy, maybe a lowgrade fever. I didn't have the energy." He subsides, somewhat mollified. I could have said that right up front, now, couldn't I? Why the coyness? Well, mostly because it was a lie. I could've said it's because I didn't feel like it - I'm entitled to a day like that once in a while, which would have been partly true. I could've said it's because it felt too cold to me. I couldve said that others of the parents prefer I keep their child in when the temperature drops (which is true - I get parental flak coming and going over this one.) I could've told him that it's my business, and remind him that I take good care of his child. But how satisfying it would have been to have given him The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth. I imagine the scenario with relish. "Well, you see. My period came early this month..." He flinches. I knew he would. Mr. Outdoorsman is such a guy. He can't bear the topic, even though he's been married for years and years to a real, live, menstruating woman. "And the first day for me is really heavy..." He winces, opens his mouth, but I would continue, inexorable. "So I need SuperPlus tampons..." I said the T-word! He blanches at the very thought. "but since I wasn't expecting it so soon, so all I have in the house are regulars..." A strangled noise escapes his throat. "So I can't get more than twenty or thirty minutes from a bathroom, you see." He grabs his child, turns to flee, and I call gleefully after his departing figure: "Which is why we didn't get out today." He is gone. Bet he won't be asking any more pushy questions. I didn't, but one day, one day I just might. Even if it's a lie.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

We're Cookin' Now!!

Here we see a basket of rhythm instruments, a staple in any good daycare home. In it we have sandpaper blocks, rhythm sticks (which in my teacher's college were called lummi sticks, lord knows why), shakers and rattles of various kinds, bells, castanets. There should be a tambourine, but it's off to grade seven with Emma, being part of a music project. Now, to you and me, this is a basket of musical instruments. Today, for the boys, it's a bowl of ingredients. Ingredients for making Banana Bread. Which, as it so happens, we will probably have for snack this afternoon, given the state of the remainder of the bananas we bought last grocery day...Are the boys psychic? Nothing so exotic. This is their inspiration. Looks just like a banana, doesn't it? It's not, though: it's a shaker. If the makers of rhythm instruments are going to blur the lines like that, it's their lookout when shakers are used for baking. Other ingredients included tomatoes. This is another shaker, fondly known around here as the

"Shaky Tomato".
They added sugar, milk, and flour, these ingredients being invisible. And then finally, the ultimate ingredient, without which no day would be complete in Mary's home. Any idea what these babies are???


Of course... Dried Poop, to be specific Yummmm.... Wonder if it's that upscale "sundried" stuff? Care for some Banana Bread, anyone?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

One Masterful Momma

Alice has had her hug and kiss goodbye from mummy and now sits on my knee as I kneel in the entry hall. Her mother and I exchange a few more bits of information. Alice stands, moves to go into the next room, then hesitates, changes direction, and moves to her mother, begins to hold up her arms. "Time for you to start your day, love!" says mummy in a cheerful voice. "I'll see you tonight!" Her smile is warm as she waves goodbye and leaves. Baby Alice turns to the next room and finds a toy. Everyone plays.

I LOVE this mother! Love her, love her, love her. You know why? Because what she did up there? That, my friends was perfect tantrum-avoiding parenting. Did you catch what happened? It was so small, so innocuous, that you might have missed it. In fact, I'll bet many parents would assume that the reason little Alice has so few tantrums is merely that she is the dreamed-of "easy child". I don't think so. Alice is a sunny child, but she's just as capable as any toddler of having a full-throttle tantrum. Zach, another sunny one, has been having some doozies lately. So what happened? We were in a transition. Transitions need to be handled with skill, or they become an outrage of tantrum in very short order. Your child approaches you with their hands up. What do you do? Alice's mum did NOT pick her up. Ninety percent of my parents - of any parents - would, without thinking, scoop the child up. But what is your goal here? Your goal is to get out that door without tears or fussing. Your goal is to leave with your child happily waving bye-bye, or so involved in play that they barely notice your departure. If you pick that child up, you are taking several backwards steps on the out-the-door-and-on-to-work continuum. You are retreating from your goal. Step #1: Do not pick the child up after you've handed them over to the caregiver. No second hugs, no extra smooches. If you don't pick up that child, how do you respond to the child? Of the 10% who don't pick the child up, eight of ten of them evidence distress of some sort: they apologize, they worry. "I sorry, sweetie, but daddy has to go now." You child has emotional receptors a hundred times more sensitive than yours. They hear sorrow, they hear anxiety, and they respond by - surprise! - getting sorrowful, or fearful, rapidly followed by rage that you would leave them in such a sad and scary place. Alice's mother did none of these things. Her tone of voice was cheerful and matter-of-fact, her smile warm. She did not evidence either anxiety, regret, or guilt. Her tone and manner conveyed her confidence that daycare is a happy place, and that her daughter has every ability to manage this transition. Step #2: cheerful, casual confidence. And finally, of the 2 in a hundred who have managed a) not to pick the child up and b) to be cheerful, one of them will hover to see if the child can manage it, thus undermining the confidence they were attempting to provide their child. "I know you can do it -- but I'll just stay here in case you can't." Alice's mum left, immediately. She did not hover to see if the child managed it. She expressed her confidence by following through. "It's time for you to start your day now." Step #3: Leave. With a smile. Alice heard her mother's confidence, absorbed the atmosphere of cheer, and went on with her day in a wholly natural and unfussed way. There was no tantrum. Be aware: in that critical moment of indecision, when she turned back to her mother for the second hug-and-kiss, Alice was 100% primed for a tantrum. It was there, ready and waiting to happen. There was no tantrum because Alice's mom is one masterful momma. Is it any surprise I love this woman?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Toddlers are Contrary Critters

Despite a sky the colour of my son's "white" sport socks - the way they used to look, anyway, before I strategically switched to gray socks, so now they can be this colour legitimately - and a rather damp wind, the children's relentless energy drove me outside. Maybe with an hour or so of park play under their little belts, they would be able to sit for more than four seconds. Maybe they would stop the ear-piercing shrieking that always accompanies their running. Their ceaseless, kitchen-to-livingroom, livingroom-to-kitchen floor-pounding, china-rattling, bambambambambambam.... Those little feet do not "pitter-patter", let me tell you. Never mind those skies. Never mind the damp. Never mind the nasty chill wind. Must. Get. Out. Of. The. House. So we pack them up (no one was helping me; that was a royal "we"), we get them outside, we take them to the park, and when we get there.... They sit in the sand. They sit on the play structure.They are calm, they are still, they are quiet.



Some of you have expressed curiosity about the reams of words I've churned out this month, loosely called a "novel". I'm finding myself utterly unable to either boast or disclose. I think parts of it are good; I know parts of it are bad, but I have no objectivity about it whatsoever. Besides, it's not done yet! I'm about halfway through the rather nebulous framework in my head that is passing for a plot structure, and I do intend to finish -- though not in another month! This week, my big plan is to deal with all the dustballs that have accumulated in the past three weeks round here... (Something's had to give: the tots, my children, my spouse, and food (mostly)are not options. Nor is sleep for me - can't function to write without it. That left housework. Aww, shuckins.) But if you'd like to see a piece of it, there's an excerpt over at Simply Put. I was out last night - didn't know was doing it till it was done, and had no say in the choice of excerpt at all. Which is absolutely perfect. No pressure on me at all. So, hop over there if you're interested.

Monday, November 21, 2005



The Medium is the Message

Arthur beams up at an elderly lady who's beaming down at him. "Aren't you the fine young man?" "I'm a very loud boy, but I'm learnin' to be quiet," he informs her. "Oh, isn't that nice, dear?" says she, turning down her hearing aid.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Good Thing They Are...

Your Eyes Should Be Brown
Your eyes reflect: Depth and wisdom What's hidden behind your eyes: A tender heart

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Undercover Operator

So you know that little near-miss I had with Mia and the hummer? Some of you made helpful suggestions: I was warned to put the object in question on a higher shelf; someone else mentioned something about a sock. Good ideas, and thank you for your input. People may wonder why I carry a single sweatsock in my purse, but no more than they might wonder why I need that other thing in there. (If I were a guy, the purse would be more of a mystery than the sock, but that tangent is for someone else's blog.) Well. Since then I've come across not one, not even two, but THREE other possibilities. Q and I, staid old mostly-married couple that we are, have a weekly date night; this week's included a trip to Venus Envy, wherein we discovered a "Vibe Cosy" which looked like something your grandma would make -- if she's partial to crocheted cucumber covers. It would prevent scratches on metallic surfaces, but it doesn't really hide the contents, so, not quite the thing for we privacy-impaired mommies. The second is a little throw cushion with a zipper down one side, which opens to reveal a cottony-soft hideaway for your several of your buzzing buddies. These cushions come in three tasteful patterns: Zebra, Tiger, and Cheetah. Yes, indeed. Good idea, bad, bad, bad execution. But maybe I can sew my own? And then I found it. Not on a shelf, but in a magazine on a shelf. Far and away my favourite, this form of camouflage would work really, really well in Mary's world. Brought to you by the designers at

Feast your eyes on these little gems:
It's the cozy family!! Little blue Misho, who fits over a mini-hummer, and big red Tricky, who can handle up to eight inches. No info on the pink terry number: maybe it's for your water-friendly friends? So, all nervous mommies, there we have it! The perfect disguise for a child-friendly, kid-dominated home: a comfort object for mommy's comfort object -- what could possibly be more apropos??

Friday, November 18, 2005

Don't You Just Hate It...

...when you grab the bathroom doorknob, and it's slimy???

Christmas is Coming, the Crafts are All Begun

Today's Christmas craft was potato printing. You've all done this, I'm sure. Take a few good-sized potatoes, but not too big for the kids to grasp. Cut them in half. Cut a shape into the flat surface. I generally use cookie-cutters for this. Press the cutter firmly into the potato, then cut away the outside of the shape. Easy! Darcy, here, is using the "slide-n-smear" technique perfected by George a few minutes earlier. George had accidentally slid his star stamp across the page. "Oh, look!" He crowed. "I made a shootin' star!" Vicarious learning is big at this age. A moment later, Darcy is crowing too. "Oh, look! I made a shootin' tree!!" Tip: For the very youngest children, only provide one colour paint. Or, if you want to be clever and educational as well, provide a two primary colours and see what third colour results. N.B. Christmas colours are NOT both primary, so if you want artwork that is not a series of mud-coloured amoeba, give the tots one colour at a time, with enough time between for a little drying to occur. The results, as you can see, are chaotically spectacular!

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Well, it may not be a "giant snowman", but it's not a bad start!


A few flakes of snow flicker past the front window, driven in a chill wind to land on the sidewalks and instantly melt. It's not very appealing, but a little fresh air will do us all good. "Come on, guys! Let's get our stuff on and go outside!" Darcy is delighted. "Yay! Let's go outside and make a giant snowman!!"

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Fine Dining

Bet you're expecting something about grilled cheese sandwiches and spilled milk. Wrong! This is the Real Deal. A caregiver friend had been given a $125 gift certificate last Christmas to a local very nice local restaurant. She had long decided that the best person to share her largesse was a woman who would fully understand just how very much it had been earned, and who needed the taste of civilization as desperately. So off we went to Beckta. Click the link, click it right now!! ..... .... There. Wasn't that lovely? Don't you feel calmed and relaxed? Did you see that bottom picture, the one with the vase lit from underneath? See that table just behind it? That was our table. We were seated - servers pulled out the chair and pushed it back under you! But we are careful not to look too delighted by this, as this would prove us to be unsophisticated, which we are not. Actually, we dress up pretty nicely. She was wearing very cool maroon pants decorated in an indian pattern of stitchery and some glittery bits, and an understatedly sexy black blouse. I was in a curve-hugging brown nicely scoop-neck dress under a watered silk blazer just about the same length as the dress: shortish. Heels for both of us: brown boots for her, black suede shoes for me. We're a nicely balanced pair: she's as blond as I am brunette; she's as willow-thin as I am curvy; I go for dark lipstick, she's a pastel girl. And she's my very best friend. We share a sushi appetizer, which was amazing. And which we both ate with chopsticks, because we are Sophisticated. My friend very sophisticatedly smeared a liberal layer of wasabi all over her first piece, and then spent five minutes removing her eye-liner from her streaming eyes with the thick white linen napkin provided for just such an eventuality. Very sophisticated. She had the BC Halibut, "just for the halibut" she says, a very classy joke, suitable for such a high-toned establishment. I had the chowder. (Read the menu!! You can be there, too!) The chowder came in sections! The server placed an assortment of seafood and delicately sliced spring potatoes artfully arranged in a wide shallow bowl in front of me. The he left. Hmmm... maybe in truly high-class places, chowder isn't soup? And then he returned! Bearing a large stainless teapot affair in which was the broth for my soup! Coconut based broth. Ummmmm.... And she ate with her fork in her left and knife in her right, and I tipped my bowl away and scooped my soup away from me, and sipped delicately from the side of the spoon. See our good manners and natural elegance? Dessert: creme brulee for me, tiramisu for her. Melt in your mouth goodness. The coffee was too strong for my taste, but I am a coffee wuss, I admit it. It did balance the sweetness of the creme brulee very nicely. And neither of us licked our plates. Which was a shame, really. These are the sacrifices one make for elegance. Not the complete lack of any mention of alcohol. She did have a glass of wine; I stuck to tonic water. Not because I feared the demon alcohol would summon up my inner table dancer, but because we were making sure our gift certificate lasted the whole meal. She got the wine because this meal out was her Christmas present - but don't tell her that: She thinks it's because my trick stomach was acting up. I am such a good friend! Oh, and did I mention the "gifts from the kitchen"? Before we'd ordered, two little espresso-size cups of squash bisque with provolone cheese were placed in front of us, on their signature plain white, square plates. Oh, but it was good. After dinner, two teeny pieces of fudge and a couple of "ben-somethingfrenchsounding"s, which turned out to be teeny-weeny deepfried pastry balls. An awful lot like quarter-sized Timbits, truth be known, with a crustier outside and way more sugar. Truly sophisticated people don't know what a Timbit is, but we didn't say the word out loud in the restaurant, so I don't think we blew our cover. Everyone knows "ben-somethingfrenchish" is much more Sophisticated than "teeny timbits". We sat and we talked, we savoured, three hours flew by. And the bill? $124.32 Man, are we good: 68 cents to spare! A gorgeous meal for the price of a tip. (Generous - we are too unsophisticated, I confess, to take this kind of "dining experience" for granted) If that blew our cover, too bad. Now I'm off to write my friend's clients a thank-you note!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Sing me a Song

We have a particular fascination these days, as you know. Today it's made its way once again into song. What a delightfully musical bunch these children are! It's so uplifting to hear those little voices raised in song, to see them make full use of their God-given talents; always such a pleasure to encourage them in their full expression. This morning George busts out singing one of his favourite songs, one we have heard many, many times before. Many, many times. Today's lyrics are reflective of the current fascination, much to the delight of Darcy, who is, if possible, even more interested in the fecal, er, focal, topic than George.

Take me out to the Ball Game, Take me out to the Poop! Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks! I don't care if I never Poop back, 'Cuz it's poop, poop, poop for the home team. If they don't win it's a shame. For it's One! Two! Three! Poops you're out, At the Old Ball Game!!"
Well, you can see the appeal, now, can't you? This song is flippin' wonderful!!! There has never been anything funnier sung in the history of song. Never. Three-year-old boys are falling over laughing throughout my home. Though his singing is far more tuneful than the average three-year-old, it's his skill as a librettist that will take George to greatness, no doubt about it. Darcy doesn't know the words to the entire song, but given that he doesn't know all the words to any of the many songs he sings, this doesn't slow him down for a second. The first line, suitably excrementalized, provides ample entertainment for the remainder of the morning. "Take me out to the poo-poo game. Take me out to the poopoo game. Take me out to the poopoo..." (you grasp the trend?) in a cheerful, tuneless, ceaseless carol. When small children go through this stage - and believe me, pretty near all of them do - I generally just wait it out and let them have their fun, with two caveats: All poop and pee talk must be kept inside, and no poop/pee talk at the table. In the meantime, I'm being serenaded by truly shitty songs...

It's Hheeerreeee...

The view from my front porch this morning. Looking right:
Looking left
And straight ahead. Note the flakes in the wind.
It's not as cold as these pictures make it look, only hovering right around 0 degrees (celcius), so this won't stay. But it's come, and it'll be back! The children are delighted.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Happy Day

It must be the weather, but we are having some serious surfeit of joy around here today. It's hard to describe without audio, because no one has said anything particularly cute. No one is doing something particularly sweet. And yet... Walking up the sidewalk, two in the double stroller, three hanging on alongside. One in the stroller says, "Aaargh!!", his voice raw and husky, then tips his head back laughing. The one walking on the right screams with laughter in return. The two on the left whoop and holler, and the other in the stroller bounds in her seat, so the squeaking of springs joins the general bedlam of joy. We stop to romp in an open field by the river, not far from my house. Everyone set loose, they run in shrieking, giggling loops across the grass. One will deliberately body check another, the two go down in the leaves, and the gales of giggles echo off the houses across the street. A neighbour cat joins us, and five shrieking children swoop round his trotting black form. Cat leaps effortlessly onto a tree branch, and five upturned faces beam the sunshine back up at him. They exude joy, these little ones. It's something like a reverse tantrum: During a tantrum, their little bodies burn with outrage and fury; now they are charged with delight. Laughter for no reason. Glee for its own sake. An excess of passionate energy that is nothing other than sheer, unadulterated, sparkling joy of life.

Times is Tight

This one is funny. Or at least I think it is. No wonder Bill Gates is the butt of so many jokes: when something is this extreme, it just becomes farcical. But you know, it's not as easy as it once was for a family of four to scrape by...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

My Inner Child is Surprised. Is this surprising?

Your Inner Child Is Surprised
You see many things through the eyes of a child. Meaning, you're rarely cynical or jaded. You cherish all of the details in life. Easily fascinated, you enjoy experiencing new things.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

I TOLD you it's not ALL Mary Poppins...

I am busy clearing the table in preparation for lunch. Everyone is playing except Arthur, who is sitting on the quiet stair for having repeatedly jumped on the couch. Mia is hanging around close to him. Too close, in fact: the quiet stair is a time out, not an occasion for visiting. But I'm busy, and I'll be calling them all to lunch in about 68 seconds, so I let it go. Then, suddenly, Arthur is laughing. You have to understand about Arthur: while he has, like every small child, a delightful small-child gurgle of a laugh, he also has this other one. This laugh would have you who don't know him wincing; it has me, who does know him, grinding her teeth. It's a loud, grating, HEE-HAW bray of a laugh, and it always, always, always means he is involved in something dopey. So now I have to investigate. On the floor in front of him are the contents of my purse. I have two purses, a very small one which I commonly use, and a larger backpack one for longer outings when I have more to carry and want both hands free. It is this larger, often unused purse, that is scattered. Bus tickets, my birth certificate, a cheque book, a tampon, a lip liner pencil, change purse...the usual purse detritus litter the floor before a delighted Arthur. "Arthur, did you do this?" "No," he says. "Mia did." I'm dubious. If he didn't start it, he surely participated. I catch a blur of pink and blue as Mia darts past, humming to herself. Now, the pink is understandable, since that's all the kid ever, ever wears, but blue? Kind of a metallic blue. And she's not humming; in fact, it's not Mia making that noise, it's more of a mechanical buzz, and it's coming from the thing in her hand. That metallic blue, buzzing item in her hand. Damn. I'd totally forgotten THAT was in my purse! Thank God it's not parent-time.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Oh, that's much better...

Arthur finishes his artwork, and sits up with a sigh of satisfaction. "Now we'll just let it dry, and then we'll take it home." I look at it. "It's a crayon drawing, sweetie, not a painting; it doesn't need to dry." "Yes, it's a little wet." I try not to let my exasperation show. Honestly, this boy would argue black is white some days! "Arthur, it's crayons. It's not wet." He trails his fingers through the box of chunky crayons. "I think it might feel a little wet." He nods his head, smiles encouragingly up at me, willing me to see his point. Now I'm not sure if we're talking about the crayons or the drawing. Is he suggesting that the crayons are wet, and have made his drawing wet? "The only way the crayons might be wet is if you put them in your mouth. Did you?" Though he's three and should be past it, toys still do find their way to his mouth from time to time. He pulls his head back in some indignation. He hastens to clear his name of the accusation. The very idea! "Nooooo! I didn't put them in my mouth! I sneezed!"

Thursday, November 10, 2005

That'd be "Goodness Gracious", right?

Conversation overheard today between two boys, who, in the interests of security, will be called "boy 1" and "boy 2". Boy 1: I heard Santa Claus in the middle of the night last night. Boy 2: Was he snoring? 1: No he was going "ho, ho, ho". 2: Why? 1: Because that's what Santa Claus does. He says 'Ho, ho, ho'." 2: He doesn't sleep? 1: No, because he is busy makin' toys for us. 2: Well, he gots to sleep sometimes. 1: No, he doesn't. 2: Well. Jesus Muffy.

Let me make very clear that any profanities uttered by the children are entirely the province and responsibility of their parents.

And the Winner Is....

...some guy searching for "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road". Sorry, but I'm not giving him/her my prize, artfully handcrafted specifically for this contest by Matthew. Then there were a couple of blog-scan systems, and position number 10,003... drumroll, please...


You may step up to the podium now:


Good lord, it's HUGE!! Matthew, why is it so big??

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

That would be done how, exactly?

Another tale from the struggle for indepence. We are now home from our outing. All that gear we put on, as independently as possible, needs to come off. As independently as possible. All the children have been instructed to take off their own hats and mittens while I make the rounds helping to remove footwear. Any mittens not on idiot stringe are to be put inside their hats, after which I will tuck mittens-and-hat bundles into a sleeve of their jacket. All very efficient. Zach complains that he can't take his mittens off. "Use your teeth, love, like this." I demonstrate with my own. "Just grab the end of the mitten, bite hard, and pull." Any dentists out there, save your comments for email, all right? I am not too concerned about their long-term dental health just now: I want to get everyone out of their gear in less than an hour. We practice for a minute. Yes, it would have been faster today to have simply tugged them off, but I have a dream and a goal for tomorrow: independence. It's all about independence. Zach yoinks one mitten off, to his great delight, where it dangles from its string. He accepts my round of applause then moves on to the next one, while I turn to remove Alice's coat. Darcy speaks from behind me. "I can pull it off with my teeth." I hang Alice's coat, reach for Zach's without turning. "That's good, Darcy. You're bigger than Zach, though. Do you need to use your teeth to pull your mittens off?" Not that I mind one way or the other, just asking. Darcy is glad I did, because he wants to share his accomplishment. In tones of great satisfaction, he explains. "Not, not my mitten, Mary - my shoe!"

Parenting Tip: Getting a Jacket on "The Magic Way"

It's fall, rapidly devolving into winter. Hats, scarves, mittens, and jackets bulge from the coathooks in the front hall; outings have become several layers more complicated. In the interests of efficiency - and of the intellectual stimulation of the children, of course - the children are encouraged to manage as much of this as possible on their own. We put on our jackets "the magic way". Familiar with this? Children can manage this manoeuvre as soon as their arms are long enough: if your tot can touch his hands together over the top of his head, he can probably get his own coat on! 1. Lay the coat on the floor in front of the child. It is unzipped and open. The child stands facing the coat, at the collar end, so the coat is upside-down to him. 2. While the coat is on the floor, the child reaches down and inserts his hands into the sleeve openings. 3. This is the trickiest bit, and requires a bit of practice: With his hands inserted into the beginning of the sleeves, the child raises his hands above his head, and then lowers his arms to the sides. This motion forces the hands down through the sleeves. As the coat is falling (magically!) into place, the child will likely need to duck his head a bit to allow it to slip down where it belongs. Done. The coat is now on.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

RTFM, if you please...

Four children today, only one of whom needs a stroller. A lovely fall day. Put those together, and you have all the elements of a bus outing. This imposing edifice, alternately called "The Castle Museum" or "The Dinosaur Museum" by the tots, was our destination. Nobody but tiny tots and a few tourists call it a castle, of course, and despite the engraving over the front doors, nobody except perhaps a few tourists call it the "Victoria Memorial Museum", either. This is the Canadian Museum of Nature. The museum is under massive renovation these days. Admission fees are now by voluntary donation. These dinosaurs out front are relatively new, and the kids were delighted to make their acquaintance. They spent ten very happy minutes clambering over mom and baby, at which point Mary decided to check out the plaque. This is a museum, after all, and the children are here to have an educational experience. Gee. Too bad I didn't wait another ten minutes or so to enrich their minds... It was great fun while it lasted!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Trip to The Market

On a chill and damp late October day, with only three children in tow, we decided to hop a bus downtown. Our destination? The Byward Market, known here as simply "The Market". Rows of vendors sell produce throughout the spring and summer. Now that the fields are pretty much empty, the farmer's stalls are dwindling, while the craft stalls multiply madly! It won't be much longer before they all pack it in. Nobody sits in a stall waiting for intrepid, thirty-below shoppers. The most common item on offer the week before Hallowe'en, was - surprise! - lots and lots of pumpkins! You often see one of these in/around the market, as well as rickshaws. I love the big hairy feet on these gentle giants!

We passed this on the way out of The Market, and you can be sure we did NOT go in. I couldn't possibly get out without purchasing some of ther (over-priced) goodies, and then I'd have to share it with the kids! My calories, mine, all mine...


Tick, tick, tick...

See the counter at the side? We're going to reach 10,000 this week!! Yay, you guys!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

12 189

Earnest Daddy

Lord help me, I have an Earnest Daddy in the ranks. When they first started, I hadn't pegged him as Earnest at all. Usually, Earnest Mommies and Daddies are easy to pick out, because they have no sense of humour. None. These two laughed a lot, particularly dad. Their son has turned out to be an utter joy - one of that elite group that I actually fall in love with, whom I'd happily take into my family as my own. (I am very good at my job: Every parent believes that I feel just exactly that very way about their own precious tot. I'll tell you what I'd never tell them: it just ain't so. I'm fond of them, that's inarguable -- and pretty much unavoidable in this job. In over ten years of doing this, I've only come across one child I simply could not warm to, and eventually I gave them notice. Continuing in care where the child is simply endured, no matter how smilingly, is not in anyone's best interests. (And no, I didn't tell them "It's because I just can't like your child!") But to actually love a child, just as one of your own? That child is a rarity.) It turns out that while Daddy is a cheerful, smiling fellow in most areas of his life, when it comes to Precious Son, he is most Earnest. Sigh. So, when tot, in his contrary two-ness, decides that he doesn't want to go to bed at night, I am asked to reduce his daytime naps, even though the child's total sleep time in 24 hours is inadequate. When contrary two balks at putting on his coat over the weekend, I am asked if I've been letting him go outside without one during the week. When the child, who had been giggling and chirpy when dad picked him up at 4:30, has a meltdown and major tantrum at home, dad calls me 15 minutes later to ask what had happened at daycare to throw him off like this. This child was gleeful, gleeful when he was picked up! Somehow his tantrum is my fault? Because, you see, for an Earnest Parent, a child's emotions are always rational, and so his misbehaviour always has a logical precursor, and always needs to be analysed, understood, supported, nurtured through. They never, ever simply laugh at their child's determined contrariness. They never seem to see that the child is merely being two, simply pushing buttons and boundaries for the sheer cussedness of it, that he's being a little pill just to see how far he can get with it, because that's what two-year-olds are wired to do. That the tantrum does not originate in some deep-rooted unhappiness. He's just testing his wings, and man, are you letting him fly! Which would be all right if it stayed at home, but Earnest Parents almost always then ask me to make some sort of accommodation to their inability to deal with it at home. That would be my perspective. They see it as asking me to be a team player. Except the smallest member of the team isn't causing me any problems at all: why would I mess with what works? The thing that doesn't seem to have occurred to this particular Earnest Daddy - and in this he is not typical - is that the problem might, just might, originate in something he is doing, or not doing. I am going to have to sit down with them soon. Normally I enjoy these conversations: they're the part of my job where I get to do some tremendously valuable support and training work with the parents. In this case, though, when Dad would far rather believe all the problems originate elsewhere, I'm not so sure how it will go. It will be an interesting and stimulating conversation, I'm sure. Should I start looking to fill the space, I wonder? Earnest Mommies and Daddies. Every caregiver should be without one.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

NaNoWriMo Word Count: 10312

World's Funniest (Straight) Men's Room

Sent to me by a designer friend, source unknown.
What do you wanna bed that women numbers 2, 4, and 6 see a lot more action than numbers 1, 3, and 5?

Friday, November 04, 2005

NaNoWriMo Update Words so far: 8 015

Now THAT'S Motivation!

From my page-a-day calendar, published by the Uncle John's Bathrom Reader people: November 3 entry:

Uncle John's Stall of Fame

Honoree: Carl Rennie Davis, a pub owner in Strourbridge, England. (Apology to all you English readers: Americans don't seem to realize that other countries subdivide their countries, too. So you'll see American citations as "Columbus, OHIO, USA", but Canadian ones as "Medicine Hat, CANADA". Seems we have no provinces after all. Apparently this principle applies to British citations, too...) Anyway... Background: David installed paddle wheels in the drainpipes of his men's room urinals; then he hooked each one up to a row of vertical lights. How many lights flash depends on how long -- and how "strong" -- the guy pees. Customers can compete to see who can light the most lights, and because extra rows of lights are mounted over the bar, ladies in the pub can follow the action. Well. I gotta get me one of those! I live for the day my bathroom doesn't smell faintly of stale pee...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Cumulative word count thus far: 5 786


Harry puts a bucket on his head, then on Darcy's, and commences to sing: "This hat is your hat, this hat is my hat..." (Three guesses for the tune!)

As we leave the coffee shop, the nice young lady behind the counter calls out, "Bye, guys!" "Where are you going?" asks Harry. (G'night, Gracie.)

Christmas is Afoot

Instructions for a happy Christmas. Take one book, "How to Make a Rag Rug". Purchase supplies: Burlap (craft quality, not the cheap stuff that goes around hedges - too bad!). Rug hooks. Fabric. Add one crafty twelve-year-old... And, with maybe a little help from mum, though certain 12-year-olds don't think this will be necessary, by Christmas a certain grampa (who does not read this blog!) will have a nice rug for his bedside on cold January mornings! We'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

As of 8:35 a.m. Today's NaNoWriMo word count is.... 4046!

The children have a WTF moment...

"Only you gots red mittens, Zach!" Harry enthuses. "Yeah, only you!" Darcy is right in there. Not to be left out, George ensures that the point is made crystal clear. "Not Harry, only you!" "Not Darcy, only you!" "Only you!" "Only you!" Mary, in a stream-of-consciousness moment engendered by partial attention to the "conversation" and a need to find Zach's other boot, intones in a gravelly, bear-like voice, "Only You...Can Prevent Forest Fires." Dead silence falls. Four heads turn my direction, four pairs of eyes stare incomprehending for a blank moment, and then as one, they turn from me and resume regularly schedulled programming. Adults!


George and Darcy have set up a ball diamond in the living room. The three bases are small board books; home plate is a purple cushion. There are neither balls nor bats anywhere in sight, but the game is unhindered by such details. George calls to Darcy, who is sitting on home plate. "You need to move. I'm going to slide?" "Why?" "Because that's what you DO on home plate." "You slide?" "Yes. So you need to move." Darcy stands, walks over to first base (aka "Things That Go") and plants a foot on it. He shuffles with it under his left foot, and plants his right on second base ("Horns to Toes"), then shifts and shuffles towards the outfield (aka the front hall) with a book (aka a base) under each foot. George watches this with growing consternation. "Darcy! What are you doing with the bases??" "Slidin'."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Christmas Idea

It's not too early!! It's never the wrong time to think of people with far less than us. Here's a link to a catalogue of Christmas gifts of a type that make gift-giving something to feel truly good about, gifts that enrich lives, gifts that could even save a life. Think about it.

Canny Boy

George and Harry are negotiating. Harry has a toy that George would like to play with. "You can have it in one minute," says Harry. This is a common strategy here at Mary's house. The times are generally one minute, two, or three. The children don't know exactly what these times mean, obviously, but it serves the very useful purpose of indicating child A's willingness to share, and tells child B they'll get it if they're patient a bit longer. Not a bad strategy. Mary often tells the child when the time period is up: time being a relative concept, two minutes to the sharer is a much longer period than two minutes would be were the share-ee to determine when it's ended. It's not always necessary, however. Lots of genuinely kind sharing happens around here. So, George has been offered the toy in one minute, which in our parlance means "a very short while". George glances at the clock, and says, "Five minutes." How very strange. Some kids have no idea about the relative value of numbers, but George does. Or at least I thought so. Harry agrees with enthusiasm; seems he knows five is more than one. George nods, well pleased, and keeps watching the clock. He's got a plan, that much is evident. After another twelve seconds or so he anounces, "There! Five minutes!" Harry's a bit dubious, but George explains, pointing to the clock: "You can tell it was five minutes because that hand just went over the number five." Harry hands it over without further protest. He can't argue with that. I'm impressed! He knows a clock is for measuring time. Apparently he understands how the hands move. The second hand was passing the two when they made their agreement; it would thus get to the five before it got to the one again. He could get it sooner that way, and the irrefutable clock would be on his side! Not bad for three and a half. Poor Harry didn't stand a chance.

I'm In!

There. I've done it. I'm going to write a novel this month!! Never mind all your snorts of derision; I can't hear them above mine own of incredulity, anyway. In Answer to the FAQ's: What the heck is NaNoWriMo? Click the link. Am I nuts?? Quite possibly. Do I have 50,000 words in me? I'm not sure I have ten! Will this interfere with the blog? I'm going to try not to, but no promises. I'm aiming for 2,000 words before 9 a.m. six days a week. After one entire day, I'm 67 words AHEAD of schedule!! Will I have fun? You bet'cha!!