Thursday, December 29, 2005

Geeks are Hot

Thanks to Q, who showed me how to get a new profile picture up on my blog. Isn't it great? Momma goose with all the babes in her care - and a Canada goose at that. Seems so right, somehow. Further thanks to Q, who took the picture last summer, then realized how fitting it would be as my signature pic. And, just to show what a truly manly man he is, Q has been converting files!! From analog to digital! (Be still my heart.) Go check it out - too funny.

Snow Removal = Excitement Plus!!!

1. When these signs appear in the snowbanks, the tots are in for a treat, because some serious Snow Removal is heading our way. Even those of you where the flakes never fall know about snow plows, I'm sure, but have you ever wondered what happens to the heaps after they're shoved to the side of the road? They can't stay there - by mid-January the banks would cover the roads, and be creeping onto your front porch! So first the signs: don't park here or you'll be towed. People co-operate with these things because we all want those snowbanks gone! 2. Stage one: These are city plows. Highway plows are different beasts, more like honkin' big dump trucks with a couple of immense blades out front, but these graders work better on city streets. Though you can't see it in these photos, their front wheels can, when necessary, tip to the side to about 45 degrees. Very cool! The plows come in and push the snowbanks into the middle of the street. Deliberately. And again, drivers co-operate. Not without a little grumbling and muttering, perhaps, but it's better than the alternative! 3. Then this cute lil guy, the sidewalk plow, comes along to shove the remainder of the rill out into the street, too. 4. Here's a good view of the rill that's been made down the centre of the street. But what, you ask, is the machine which faces it? 5. This is it! See those circular blades? They slice right into the banks, and then suck up the snow and shoot it into the waiting dump truck. They trundle in tandem down the street. That spout can move from side to side, the better to fill the dump truck. The line of dump trucks await their turn. We have a LOT of snow! This kind of snow removal does not happen after every snowfall: can you imagine the expense? We're all happy when it happens, though! You can see why this is a toddler thrill: TWO kinds of snowplows, a mondo snow-blower, and a gazillion dump trucks! Does it get any more exciting? And for me: clear sidewalks and - oh, the excitement! - on-street parking once more!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Bait and Switch

Little Zach has an airplane obsession. All day, every day, planes, planes, planes. Imagine his excitement, when, during our Christmas party with all the mommies and daddies right there in my house, his dada pulls out this great book with several pages, in the very first volume, dedicated entirely to airplanes!!! "Mary, Mary, yook! Ah-panes! Momma, dada, ah-panes!" I mean, really! How thrilling is that??? So thrilling that he decides it would pay to investigate that particular shelf of reference books, hitherto completely ignored, a little further. Who knows what delights might await? He grabs another book, waves it under daddy's nose. "Read me dis one, dada! Dis book!" Dad takes a look, snorts his wine elegantly out his nose. "Maybe in a few years, sport", and hands it off to me. Quick like a bunny, dada grabs Volume A once more. "Hey, how about let's look at those airplanes again!!" I did mention that all the mommies and daddies were there, right?

Monday, December 26, 2005

One Year Later

Today is the one-year anniversary of the tsunami that swamped so much of Southeast Asia. While I know that there are many agencies still working over there, World Vision is the one with which I am most familiar. Because they'd been in the area for 40 years before the tsunami hit, they had supplies, staff, and administrative infrastructure at the ready. If you'd like to see a bit of the things going on, here's a link to a two-minute video clip. For more information on other responses and programs, click here. Did you know that in some areas, the tsunami killed four times as many women as men? Out of tragedy springs hope - what else is left? From realized hope grows wisdom, strength, resilience, and joy.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas!

I don't know how much anyone will be blogging over the holidays (including myself), so in case this is it until January,

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all, no matter what your beliefs, have a joyful and life-giving holiday.

Say what you mean or it's cucumbers all the way

Arthur happens on me sneaking a private cookie. The tots have just had their (nutritious) snack in the next room. I was hoping to enjoy my less virtuous one in private. "What are you eating, Mary?" I hate this question. Kids do it all the time. He does not mean "what are you eating?" He knows what I'm eating. What he means is, "Can I have one, too?" Annoys the crap out of me, truly it does. You want something? Be direct! (Plus, he just had a snack and I don't want to share mine. What?!? I can't hoard my cookies? I have to be noble every minute of my day? Did he share his grapes with me? No, he did not.) Anyway... since it's a non-sensical question, I figure I can give it a non-sensical answer. I'm not playing your game, kiddo, you're playing mine. I consider the cookie in my hand. "It's a cucumber." "A cucumber?" "Yup." Any other child would have given me a blank or perhaps an accusing stare, and wandered off in disgust. Arthur, however, has never yet let an opportunity to talk pass him by. I want to pretend that cookie's a cucumber, he'll go right there with me. Talk is talk, after all! "What colour is it?" More consideration of the Lemon Temptation I'm rapidly eliminating. "It's yellow." "Some cucumbers can be yellow. After they're ripe, they get yellow." Arthur nods, an encouraging, we're-in-this-together nod. "So they do. You're quite right." I answer, brushing cucumber crumbs from my hands. Arthur pauses, then cheerfully trots off, his interest in conversation lasting only as long as the cucumber. You know, some people have to hide a drinking habit, sip their martinis from cracked old coffee mugs. Some people have a lover, risk and reward, slip him out the back door as hubby comes in the front. Exotic and daring. Me, I'm hiding in the kitchen, trying to hide my cookie habit from three-year-olds. ...Sigh...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Because Activity is Important

Apparently, the children haven't gotten their snow legs yet. But as Mr. Outdoors Dad will tell me, physical activity and fresh air is very important. And really, I agree. So last week, I took them out for a flounder in the snow.


Is often mystifying... "Emma," says George, looking into the laptop. "Let's play the suh-wuk game." "The shark game?" "No, the suh-wuk game." "The work game? The shuck game? The stuck game?" Nope. She did figure it out, though. Bet you can, too. Hint: that decorated piece of greenery standing in the corner of our living room is a "Kwissmass suhwee".

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Good Call

Arthur sits on the bottom step. I see him there as I happen by. This step is the "Quiet Stair", the time-out spot, the place children go to calm down, to think about their misdemeanors, or to keep them out of Mary's way long enough for her to overcome dark, vengeful urges. Except I have no recollection of sending him to the stair, none at all. "Arthur, are you sitting there for fun, or are you on the Quiet Stair?" "I'm on the Quiet Stair." "Do you know why?" "Uh-huh." "Okay. Why are you on the Quiet Stair, Arthur?" "Because... I, uh... it was... maybe I..." He hasn't got a clue. And neither do I. Let's see. This is Arthur. There have been a number of stair-able offenses this morning, but I hadn't thought I'd used the stair as a consequence for any of them. "Was it for shoving the furniture around after I said not to?" "No." "Was it for hitting the tree ornaments with your wooden hammer?" "No." "For tearing the cushion open with your teeth?" "No." "Poking the budgie with a paintbrush? Sitting on little Alice? Throwing blocks? Licking Darcy's face after he said 'No'?" "No. No. No. No." Hmmm. The mystery will have to remain unsolved, I guess. Don't suppose it really matters. "Okay, kiddo. You've been pretty quiet here, so you can get up now if you like." "No fanks. I think I'll just sit here for a while." You know, I think it's probably better that way.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas is Coming

Musing on Christmas gifts. I get gifts every year from my clients, some of which are perfect and greatly appreciated, others of which, ah, not so much. I will say up front that I understand that gifts are not obligatory. There is nothing saying that my parents need to give me a gift at all. The fact is, they do. It is also true that these gifts are an expression of their valuation of the service I offer. About five years ago, I was given the best gift I have ever received. This mother gave me a portion of her Christmas bonus (I have no idea it if was 1% or 90%). The cheque was generous, and be sure I appreciated that. However, it was the sentiment expressed on the card which accompanied the cheque that mattered most of all: "This is your portion of my Christmas bonus, which I would not have been able to earn had I been worrying about my daughter. I am able to be my best at work, knowing that she is getting the best with you. Thank you." You know what? I actually teared right up when I read that. It remains the single best gift I have ever, ever received from a daycare parent, not because of the generosity of the cheque, but because of its symbolism. Mom saw me as a contributor to her work productivity, and so she shared her reward for that productivity with me. It was a measure of the value she placed on my contribution to her world - to her peace of mind. Last year I received a range of gifts. Three of them spoke of that kind of appreciation. They had been carefully chosen with consideration given of me, my character, my needs. One was a weekend car rental - a great gift for a woman who, at that point, didn't own a car. One was a hand-knit scarf, knit in shades carefully chosen to match my dress coat - not something the parents saw me wear often. Someone was paying attention! I also received a couple of token gifts. You know the kind. Perhaps like us you keep a stash of small, nice, generic items, to be given to people who unexpectedly give you a gift, and you wish to reciprocate. They're impersonal, inexpensive little throw-away gifts. The sort of gife you give the paperboy. No personal thought went into it, because they're not intended for a specific person. Call me shallow, but a box of a dozen pouches of hot chocolate screams "throw-away" gift. I should be ashamed of myself, qualifying my gifts in this way. Gifts are, after all, gifts. "It's the thought that counts!" someone out there is indignantly huffing. Well, true. And how much thought, do you think, went into the grocery store box of hot chocolate? In pouches, yet. As was so well expressed by the woman who shared her Christmas bonus with me, the gift is ultimately an expression of their valuation of the service I provide their family. I did not feel much valued by the hot chocolate people. I did feel valued by the scarf family. For it is, indeed the thought that counts.

Monday, December 19, 2005

I'll Pick Door Number Two for Emotional Resiliency, Dave

Door Number One: A child, about 18 months old, falls in the playground. There's a slight pause, that hesitation between stimulus and response. Tender mommy rushes over. "Oh, sweetie, are you okay?" Her voice oozes concern. Child looks at her, and starts to wail. Mommy cuddles and soothes. "He's just so sensitive," she says to me, raising her voice over the increasing cries. Door Number Two: A child, about 18 months old, falls in the playground. There's a slight pause, that hesitation between stimulus and response. Cheerful dad watches. Child looks towards dad, and dad calls out in a hearty, cheerful voice. "Wow, what a big Kaboom!! Fall down!" He spreads his arms and laughs. Tot grins back at dad, levers her little butt up in the air and achieves upright again, then trots off to play. "She's a tough little nut," says dad. "Just takes these things right in stride."

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2005, Mary P

Sunday, December 18, 2005


We received 20 to 30 cm of snow on Thursday night. When I stepped out onto my front porch Friday morning to clear it off the steps before the clients started to arrive, this is what confronted me:

Apparently, it was too much, even for a snowman!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Another thing that makes me happy...

That TERRIFIC riff at the beginning of "Daytripper". Love it, Love it, Love it!

On Being Reasonable with your Child

"Do you want to put on your boots now, sport?" "NO!" "Come on, now. You have to wear your boots." "Noooo." "It's very cold. Your feet will be cold if you go out in your slippers." "NO wanna!" Child shoves at parent. "Now, sweetie. Let's get these boots on, huh?" "NOnonoNONONOnonononoNONONOno. NO." Child take a swing at parent. "That's not nice. Dada doesn't like it when you do that." Child takes another swing. Protests now escalate into a scream, and a tantrum is under way. I have seen this enacted, oh, it must be hundreds of times. Each and every time I sigh softly in exasperation, adding it to my mental list of "Things to talk about with this parent", along with "please send more diapers", and "don't forget to take his craft home with him". The initial error is very common, very basic, and simple to eradicate. I've said it before, and I'll say it again:

If "No" isn't an option, don't present it as one! No self-respecting two-year-old is going to turn down the opportunity to say NO. You ask him a question, you're giving him a GIFT. "Hoo, boy, something to resist! A chance to express all this negativity churning around inside me. I get to prove my autonomy! Oh, no,no,no,no,no,no, NO,no, no. Oh, yeah!" So, the whole rest of the "dialogue" may have been avoided entirely had dad said, "Okay, sport, let's get those boots on you. It's COLD out there!" The underlying problem is bigger. This parent, like many of my parents, is a nice, well-meaning, kindly, principled person, who has made a decision that he will always endeavour to treat his child with respect, that he will alway try to be reasonable with his child. And that's a good thing. Thing is, he's also expecting his child to be reasonable back. I have a flash for you: Two-year-olds are not reasonable critters. So what's a parent to do? Well, continue being reasonable. Just because your toddler is throwing himself kicking and screaming to the floor doesn't mean you can, too. No; no you can't. Get up off that floor, right now please, and be the grown-up. Sorry about that. But, you say, wasn't that what this dad did? He continued being reasonable, and look where that got him! Well... he was being reasonable, yes he was, but he was also expecting his toddler to be reasonable in return. He was honestly expecting that child to smack his hand into his forehead and say, "Oh, dad, of course you're right! What was I thinking?" Not going to happen. So, how does one be reasonable with an unreasonable tot? "Okay, sport, let's get those boots on. It's COLD out there!" "No boots." "Oh, yes," says the parent, pulling the tot onto his knee, and picking up the first boot. "Everyone wears boots in the snow." Parent begins to put the first boot onto the child. Now, if this has happened many times before, the child will subside and let the proceedings continue. Parent can keep tot's mind in a positive channel by talking about what's going to happen next (NOT in a coaxing way), by talking about the child's day, by talking about all that lovely snow outside -- whatever. If this pattern is unfamiliar to the child, though, if this child has always gotten to throw a fit before complying, then that's likely what he'll do. So you have this screaming, thrashing child on your lap. Now's your chance to REALLY practice your reasonable-ness! You completely ignore the behaviour. The child is screaming and thrashing in your lap. You don't soothe, you don't coax. You just get those boots on. Then you put your child on her feet, you take her by the hand (in part to prevent her from ripping the boots right back off again), you "Wave bye-bye to Mary!", and you head out the door. You want this task to get completed? Then see that it is completed. You don't parent by committee, waiting for the child to comply. Do you seriously WANT to give your two-year-old veto power over your every instruction? I can't imagine you really do, because, you know, they're not the most cooperative of critters. Team spirit is a concept that looms in their future, but isn't likely part of their current reality. If the conflict is over something you've asked the child to do - pick up their toys, say - you'd be doing it "hand-over-hand", meaning you take their dimpled fist in your hand, and you place it on one toy after another and put them where they belong, even if the small body attached to the hand is uttering ferocious protest. "It's time to put the toys away. You can either do it yourself, or mummy will help you." When the task is finished, you turn to your heaving, sniffling, red-faced, furious tot and give them a beaming smile. "All done! Thank you for helping!" Give them a big, comforting hug. Do not soothe them. No "there, there's" and absolutely no "I'm sorries"!! Officially, that hug is to say thank you. You want the child to focus now on the satisfaction of having completed the task. You want them to experience the rewards of compliance. So the hug is to say "There! I knew you could do it! Thank you!" You know it's also to help calm them. They don't - they shouldn't - know this. Don't offer comfort for tantrums - it encourages more of them. After a moment or two, go on to the next thing. (And remember: DON'T ask questions. "Would you like to... next?" is certain to elicit a NO, and probably a resumption of the tantrum in a child who has so recently been so ruffled. Instead, "Come sit on dada's lap, and we'll read a story." Accompanied by action.) If the tantrum doesn't subside so soon, you put them someplace away from you - in their room, behind a baby gate in the next room - and say "When you're quiet, you can come out." Throughout this, you have been entirely reasonable, you have modelled rationality to your tot, but you have not expected the impossible from her. She will get to it in the end, by your consistent example, by practice, with just a little more maturity. Just not quite yet.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2005, Mary P

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Christmas Gift Idea for Mary

"Here we go, little boy, one more mouthful." Nigel, who had till this moment been greeting each spoonful with impatience and glee, suddenly makes a little "gu-huck" noise in his throat. I know what this means, I do, but there's no time to react. Just one little "gu-huck", and then his high chair tray is suddenly filled with his lunch, a glistening and blurred recap of the food he'd so cheerfully ingested only moments before. My hand, hovering close to his dimpled chin, is similarly bedecked. Glistening strands, decorative in shades of green and tan, are suspended betwixt hand and tray. Clean the boy, clean the tray. Wash my hands. Moisturize. Step in a puddle. Wipe it up with a paper towel. Wash my hands, because you just never know. Moisturize. Arthur is crying. He has a bloody nose. This happens with Arthur, we know the drill: Firm pressure on the bridge of his nose for five minutes. The bridge of his red-and-yellow speckled, blood-and-mucous bedecked nose. The bridge in the middle of his snot-covered, tear-streaked face. For five minutes I sit with him, finger and thumb clamped firmly onto the bump that is the source and centre of a swirl of bodily fluids. Assure us both that the dripping has stopped. Clean him up. Wash my hands. Moisturize. Lift Darcy from the cot after his nap and discover the source of the puddle. The boy is soaked from the navel down. Peel of his clothes, strip the sheet off the cot, throw it all in the washer downstairs. Disinfect the cot. Wash my hands. Moisturize. One of the boys comes to me, holds out two blocks, one in each hand. "These blocks are wet!" We put them in the sink, rinse them off. I don't make the connection. Wash my hands. Moisturize. Decide to tidy the rest of the kitchen floor. Lift Darcy's cot. Discover a couple more "wet" blocks under there. Disinfect the blocks. Wash my hands. Moisturize. Baby Alice is in her highchair, fretful. "What's up, little girl?" I say as I lift her. What's up is baby Alice. She's been sitting in something that's been rotting for weeks. That has to be it. Couldn't be a mere diaper producing that eye-watering stench, could it? Oooh, my yes. Brownish green goo runs from sweet little cheeks to mid-thigh, and reaches as high as a darling little bellybutton. Forty-seven baby wipes and a change of clothing later, she's back to her sweet self. Wash my hands. Moisturize. Is there any bodily fluid I haven't encountered this noisome day? -- Don't answer that! -- But if anyone is thinking of Christmas gifts, the economy-size jug of a lightly scented, heavy duty moisturizer would be much appreciated. Either that or shares in Proctor and Gamble. Thanks, and Merry Christmas!!

What Makes a Good Daddy?

Arthur sits on the kitchen floor, legs straight out in front, doll tucked snugly into the front of his overalls. The eternal hockey game edges closer. "Hey!" he calls out a warning. "You guys are bein' dangerous to my baby!" George looks at him with some disdain. "Well, you can't bring a baby on the ice!" "Yeah!" Darcy chimes in. "Your baby could get hurt. You're a bad daddy!" Two responsible daddies glare as the BD slinks off the ice.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My Favourite Things

Susan is sick and feeling dispirited, and wants people to post on their favourite things, the things that lift their spirits, hoping it might have a similar effect on hers. Oooo. I get to have fun and help someone: what a fun assignment! Here's my list. Q Sex. Strange how thinking of Q brought that to mind... Green. Any shade except chartreuse, aka bile green. Christmas. Christmas trees, Christmas carols, midnight church services, shopping, giving gifts, stuffing stockings. I love it all! Almonds, and by extension, marzipan. I love, love, love marzipan. Privacy. Baby giggles. Asparagus, cheese, (except blue), Miss Vicki's S&V potato chips, licorice allsorts. Silk. Tea. Except I can't drink it any more because of this damned almost-ulcer. Walking by the river near my home. Singing. The sounds our budgie makes. Meaningful talks with my kids. Touching. Sensual backrubs. Music, especially chamber music and the blues. The fact that my youngest brings friends home regularly. Reading. Long, seeking conversations. Babies finding their bellybuttons. Solitude. Long walks. Laughing. A pint with a friend.

Rainbow Hockey

The participants of this conversation are three three-year-old boys. Names are unnecessary. They are arranging their hockey game. "You're the green team and I'm the black team, and you're the red team." "No, I'm the red team." "I'm the yellow team and you're the blue team." "He's the blue team?" "And you're the grey team." "No, he's the green team." "And I'm the yellow team!" "Yes! And I'm the blue." "And he's the red." Thus the game commences. Glad we got that sorted out!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Seasonal Parenting

Three little boys play with three baby dolls, and like all new parents, the conversation centres on their offspring. "My baby Jesus is sleeping." "My baby Jesus is eating." "My baby Jesus is pooping." (Surprised??) "My baby Jesus is a girl." (Now that's a surprise!) "My baby Jesus is a boy." "I'm going to give my baby a bath," says Arthur. Guess his was the pooping one. He tosses his baby bodily over the baby gate and into the kitchen, where it lands, head-first, with a solid clunk. "There! I frowed my baby in the bath." "Shhh!" Darcy reprimands. "You woked up my baby." George shushes his baby. "Now all our baby Jesuses are crying." "Go to sleep baby Jesus, go to sleep!" Darcy urges, rocking his baby and kissing its forehead. (Was his baby Jesus male or female? I lost track.) George has an idea. "You needa sing to your baby Jesus to help him sleep." Arthur launches into an enthusiastic if melody-challenged version of "I can sing a rainbow." Just then the CD, which has been on the random setting all morning, turns to The Blind Boys of Alabama. Their bump'n'grind blues version of "Away in a Manger" fills the air. Given how non-traditional their version is, I am surprised when Darcy recognizes it. "Not that song, Arthur! We need to sing "Away inna Manger", because a manger is a baby Jesus crib!" And in only moments, three babies are lulled to sleep amidst a cacophony of the Blind Boys of Alabama, and the tone-deaf Boys of Ontario.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, December 12, 2005

More Toys

I have mentioned that one of the perks of the job is getting to buy fun toys at regular intervals. Here's one I picked up this weekend. I love the little squirrels doing their thing. I like that the elements are raised, so when children count the nuts, they can also feel them. Perhaps the part I like best, tactile woman that I am, is the fact that the pieces feel nice - see how soft and flexible they are?

Oh, and the kids like it, too!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Momma Bear is Grumpy

Time for a completely un-daycare-related rant. Group Projects. Group projects for 12-year-olds in particular. My daughter has had two of them this term. In the first, her partner was only available to work on it during the class periods devoted to it, though the teacher had made it clear that more time would be required to do it properly. Despite her repeated efforts, Emma could not arrange an evening or weekend meeting. The other girl had piano lessons, swim lessons, drama practice and tae kwon do. (When does she do homework? When does she get to rest and relax, hang out and do nothing? Poor kid.) This current project: While Emma and her new partner, Nina, (assigned, not chosen) have managed to get together many times, it is clear from this mother's perspective that only one of them was producing much of anything. Two nights before the project was due, the girls got together here. At 8:00, they pronounced themselves "done!", all ready for their presentation. The following night, Emma was up till 10 - well past her schoolnight bedtime - finishing the t-shirts and the pictures that Nina was to have done, which Nina said she had finished. Items which Emma only discovered were unfinished during school that day. "Why isn't Nina doing this?" Emma rolls her eyes. "Because she has 'stuff' to do." Okay, then. For this project, Emma has - made two bristol board displays of pictures, - decorated two t-shirts, - compiled a tape of sound samples, - written a dozen descriptions of instruments and mounted them - made the answer sheet for the quiz she had designed. Together, the girls have practiced their spoken presentation, gone to the library to photocopy their answer sheet, and, working at my dining room table with me overseeing, Nina has written five descriptions and made a word-search puzzle. On her own, Nina has done... Nothing. Nothing at all. When they present, they will both receive the same mark. I know what group projects are supposed to do. I was a teacher once, remember? They are supposed to teach teamwork, division of labour, problem-solving, all that worthy stuff. However, they simply do NOT teach any of that stuff, without an overseeing adult to guide the children into these lessons. The teacher MUST oversee the division of labour, must, at this level, monitor to see if each child is fulfilling her obligations. Emma doesn't have the authority to make Nina produce what she committed to produce. If Nina won't do it, what is her recourse? Why, the teacher, you say! Wrong. When Emma tried to get some help, the teacher said only "This is a group project. You have to work it out between the two of you." No guidance provided as to just how this might be accomplished; no helping them through the necessary discussion; no following up to see if they did indeed manage it. Just, "Sort it out on your own." Well, that's very helpful. So what happens when one child refuses to do their share? Obviously, the other child, the one who cares, does it all. What is Emma learning so far? She's learning that she hates group projects. She's learning that if she wants something done, she'd best do it herself. She's learning not to rely on her classmates. She's learning not to rely on the teacher. In short, she's learning exactly the opposite of what a group project is supposed to teach. Bah!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

But this is Our House

I'm on knees and elbows, peering under the couch. Husband enters the livingroom. "Well, hello there!" He happily greets my backside. "Looking for a book?" I back out and sit up on my knees, blow dust off the book clenched in my hand. "Yup." Stop and consider for a moment, look up at him. "You know, in some homes, people would look for their books on a shelf."

Friday, December 09, 2005

Imagination Station

"George, what's that on your back?" Of course I can see what is on George's back. George has a pink plastic octopus on his back, long, limp pink legs dangling around his neck and bouncing off his bottom. Rather to my surprise, George, Mr. Prosaic, does not answer "An octopus". No, indeed. "It's my backpack for school." "You're going to school?" He nods. "And Darcy, I see you have your sleeping bag for space." For Darcy is in a familiar pose: shuffling along in a large canvas bag, held in place by its long red handles which are looped over his shoulders. "Yes, but George wants to play school." Mary to the rescue. This one's easy enough. "How about you play Space School? You'd need your backpack there, George, so it could be filled with air for you to breathe." Darcy and Arthur are enthusiastic. "Hey! You have a space sleeping bag, Darcy, and I have my space hat!" Arthur declares. Arthur, who is wearing a bright red basket on his head now has an actual reason for his millinery. How thrilling! Everyone's props fit the game! Prosaic George is dubious. "There's no school in space." Mary is determined that little imaginations shall take flight, however, and will not be deterred so readily. "How do you know? And even if there aren't, you could always Pretend." His face still registers doubt, so I increase the appeal. "In Space School, you could learn how to drive a spaceship!" Darcy is completely wowed by this possibility, but George remains staunchly untwined by the tendrils of imagination. "My legs are too short. They can't reach the pedals." "In Space School, they have special ships for kids, just so they can learn." Arthur, Mr. Construction guy, likes this. A kid-sized space ship. Now that's something a guy can wrap his head around! "Hey , guys, let's go build one!!" He leads the way purposefully to the kitchen, sweeping George up in his passage. Building a spaceship is tangible enough even for Reality Boy, and there follows great crashing and bashing of blocks, and much excited chatter. When they leave a half hour later, it certainly looks like a comet went through. Space, the final frontier - right here in my kitchen!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

One Finger

The boys investigate the Christmas tree. The rule: You may touch the ornaments with One Finger. One finger guarantees a gentle touch, and precludes grabbing.

Sweet, reliable Darcy demonstrates the concept.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

It's the Best Game You Can Name*

*It's a line from a song, by this man.

Happy Birthday

Twenty years ago this moment, I was less than two hours from meeting my firstborn. We'd been at this endeavour for about 14 hours, but I was holding the course pretty well, still pacing the halls, stopping at steadily reducing intervals to lean on her dad and pant. The nurses cooed every time we paced by their station. I was young, it was my first, I was solemn and stoic, only whimpering quietly from time to time - all things to warm their hearts. An hour and a quarter later, I was in bed and pushing. Half hour after that, two nurses and a doctor were jostling for position between my thighs, oohing over my nether regions. (If you think there's anything remotely sexy about this, you've never been in a labour room.) "Would you look at those membranes!!" said the midwife to the OB nurse, when - POP! - they exploded. Later, I laughed at the memory of how they'd all leaped backwards out of the spray. At the time I felt only a certain savage delight. And that was it. One or maybe two good pushes later, my warm, wet, wide-eyed daughter was in my arms. The midwife latched her on to me to nurse once they'd cleaned her up and bundled her neatly. A few minutes later, I moved her to the other side. She knew what she was doing from the first second. Which made exactly one of us. "I don't think she's quite in the right spot," observed my husband. I carefully broke the suction, just as I'd been shown, and pulled her away. There on the side of my breast was a deep red hickey. She was doing her part; too bad mummy hadn't a clue... She was always a smart little thing. At age six, she convinced her then three year old brother that he would rather eat the leaves of our raspberry bushes, that "those red things are yukky, and you should give them to me." Strangely, they have a very good relationship... She was always part mother to her baby sister, who was born when she was seven. Today, on her birthday, I handed to phone to her little sister so she could say her birthday greetings, and then had to wait twenty minutes to get it back - and would have had to wait longer, I'm sure, had the girl not had to get back to school. And now that tiny smoke-eyed baby is a tall and lovely smoke-eyed woman. Smart and independent. She's in university, she's been living on her own for a couple of years, she's making a life for herself. She's even going on her very first grown-up vacation, made without any family members whatsoever, over Christmas. (To Cuba. But I'm not jealous, oh no.) It's a miracle when a baby is born. It's no less wonderful when that baby graduates into a life of her own, and you get to see the beginnings of the rewards of all that effort. Happy Birthday, Sweetie!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Trouble in the Offing

Poor Alice's mother! Within a month of her maternity leave, I have begun a new baby. (New baby in this month, old baby out next - best way to do it. Far easier on the cash flow than the reverse.) Whence the problem? Wait and see... Little Marc is thus far proving to be an easy transition. Day two is too soon to make any long-range predictions, but so far, so good. He is still at the solemn stare stage, refusing to eat much at all, and needing a lot of carrying about. All perfectly standard. But low food intake and no smiles are a breeze compared to the alternative: the child who refuses to be put down but screams incessantly even when in your arms. Very hard on the ears, that. (When my ears have had all they can take, I put the screamer in a playpen in another room. Completely guilt-free, I might add. Clearly whatever I'm doing to soothe isn't having any sort of soothing effect, so why make us both crazy trying? When I return to unhappy tot, now that they've experienced the alternative, they may even be a little more receptive to the soothing!) But none of that with baby Marc, bless his unstretched little vocal cords. No, the problem is sunny little Alice, who, let me tell you, is no sunshine these days. Alice is a little lowering thundercloud this week, cranky, fretful, demanding, refusing to eat, wailing when I walk by without picking her up. Not her normal self at all. Her thoughts are crystal clear: "Who the HELL is that other baby, and why are you carrying HIM instead of ME?" It has been months since she's needed much carting about, but clearly she thoroughly resents her role as "baby" being usurped. If she hates it when I tend to a smaller child, how on earth will she manage when mummy must do the same?? I know baby number two was a bit of a surpise. Though they'd planned on a second child, they'd also planned to wait another year or so, which would have made the transition to big-sisterhood so much easier. Alice is not quite two, very much a baby herself. As I said to mom this morning, "Good thing she has a whole month to get used to the idea here!" However, just between us? I predict fireworks.

Monday, December 05, 2005

No Wonder I'm So Tired...

Place: My Kitchen Time: Monday morning, no more than five minutes after their arrival... Culprits: NOT the cat.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Keeping you Up-to-Date

I suddenly realized that big changes are afoot at Mary's house, and I have not apprised you of them at all. For shame. 1. I am getting a new baby! (Please note the verb: getting, not having.) Eleven-month-old Marc, George's baby brother, starts tomorrow morning. Yes, yet another boy. I just attract males in droves, what can I say? 2. Baby Alice will be quitting at the end of the month. I'm losing one of the only two girls! Alice's mother is expecting another child in January, and unlike many of my clients, Alice's mother will stay home with both her babies for her year-long maternity leave. Yay, Alice's mom! There are so many things to love about that woman, besides her darling baby. I will miss her. 3. Thomas is back!! He's coming every other Friday for the next little while. And now you know.

Ah, That's Better

I had been venting my frustration into the listening ears of my sweetie. I've been working so hard, so consistently, so insistently with this particular child, who seems wholly impervious to my every tactic. (My sweetie listens patiently and supportively to my tantrum. You think caregivers don't have teeny little lady-like tantrums from time to time? Ha!) And then he speaks words of wisdom, soothing and kind, putting the whole endeavour into its right perspective: "You succeed with this child every time you reach the end of the day and the child is still alive." He's so wise.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Talk Sex with Mary

Today, boys and girls, we are going to tackle the prickly question of your child's sexual health and development. I am not addressing those parents who talk easily about the topic with their children. This post is not for those who have no trouble labelling all their child's body bits. This is not for those of you who find it funny when your baby boy discovers the joys of that little item under his diaper, or your baby girl announces to you while in the tub "Hole, momma! Gotsa hole!" You! You in the back row, who winced when you read that "hole" line - this post is for you. The first and biggest thing that needs to be said to those squeamish parents, in very kind, compassionate, but firm tones, is "Get over yourselves". For your child's sake. This is not about you, this is about your child. Get over your own reaction enough to see this from your child's perspective. Your child, who is miles and miles and years and years away from sex. (Unless there is something seriously wrong in your family, in which case you should not be reading this, but seeking out family therapy and perhaps legal assistance, now if not sooner.) Do you want your child to have a healthy, happy attitude to sex and sexuality? Do you want them to be a sexually mature adult? Do you want them to be a teen who knows how to say no with assurance, who knows how to protect themselves should they decide to say yes? Who will always know it is their choice, their right to say no - or yes - who won't indulge too early in order to prove something, or from a sense of obligation or coercion? It starts now, mommies and daddies. It starts now, when your children are discovering their bodies. To your toddler, those bits under the diaper are no more nor less significant and interesting than any other bit on their body. SO: a penis is no more interesting than an ear; a vagina no more fascinating than a bellybutton. Try to imagine being two, when those bits are just bits like any other. You parents of boys will be less able to avoid this than girls. Boys discover their wee joysticks from the moment they gain control of their hands. Girls take longer - boys have it easy from day one; it's the injustice of nature - but be assured that your daughter will discover there's a hole down there, probably in the tub, and probably before she's two. Sometime around then she'll probably also discover the joys of her clitoris, even though, unlike her brother, she may never get to see the source of that feeling. Before you grab their hand and yoink it away, think about this from the perspective of a total innocent. YOU know this is about sexuality; your child knows two things, and two things only: they've found an interesting bit; and it feels good. "IT FEELS GOOD?!? I thought you said this wasn't about sex!?!?" I can hear you shrieking in horror. Well, yes, it feels good. Is there something wrong with that? It feels good for a baby to taste something sweet - which is why they guzzle breast milk the way they do. It feels good for a baby to be held and carressed - which is why they sleep in your arms. It feels good to sleep soundly, to have the sun warm your skin, to hear your mommy and daddy's voice reading to you, to laugh, to drink when you're thirsty, to eat when you're hungry, to wake to the smell of coffee - oh wait, that one's mine! And it also feels good to touch your own skin, and your own under-the-diaper bits. Once again: for a small child, there is no difference in significance amongst all these things that bring pleasure. If it's okay to enjoy eating, it's okay to enjoy touching oneself. (And it is!) Biologically, sex is about procreation; psychologically it's about love and power and bonding and a host of other things; physically, which is where your tot is right now, it's about pleasure. And there's nothing wrong with that. The moral aspects of sex and sexuality come into play when the child is older, when they become consciously aware of their sexuality, when they start to express it in interaction with another sexual being. Right now, at age two, they're pre-moral, sexually. Right now, moms and dads, it's EASY - easy for you. Start now, and you can enter the world of sex and sexuality in wee little baby steps. So, please, be kind to yourselves and start now. Enter the waters a baby step at a time, let it become just one of the many things you talk about with your child. It's either that or plunge in headfirst into cold and murky waters, when they're almost a teen and totally mortified by your sudden interest. Interest which, after a life-time of silence from you on the subject, they will only see as embarassing and utterly prurient. The first step is to relax. Your child is learning, learning, learning all the time. One of the things they’re learning about is their own body. They are not preparing for a life of sexual debauchery; they’ve just discovering another body part, like they discovered their hands around three months old, and their toes at six. So, when you catch your child exploring their genitalia, understand that they play with it in the same way they pick their noses, or poke around with their bellybutton, or suck their thumb: because it's there, because they like to. And. That's. It. Nothing bigger, nothing scarier. Just as you would tell your child to use a tissue, not their finger when they pick their nose, and wash their hands afterwards, just as you would merely smile when they play with their navel, so you can simply smile when they play with things below the navel, move their hands so you can finish the diaper change, and then wash their hands as you wash your own, after the diaper change. The message you send should not be "Agh! Stop doing that nasty, dirty thing!!" The message you send need only be, "Move your hands so mummy/daddy can finish changing your diaper, please." Just as they will learn that there is a time and place to scratch their bum, pluck their eyebrows, floss their teeth and sundry other activities, they will learn there is a time and place to mess about with their private bits. Not while you're changing their diaper, thanks, but not because it's shocking or nasty, but simply because you want to get the diaper changed. When they're a little older and they want the words for their body parts, give them. How did you tell them the label for "ear"? If you can give your child the name for their ear, their nose, their bellybutton, you can give your child the label for their penis, their vulva, their labia. Practice it with me now: lay-bee-ah. You can do it. When you give them the word for "ankle", "chin", or "elbow", are you tense with anxiety? Of course not. So give them the words for their private parts - give them the proper, medically accurate words - without fuss and flurry. Or, if you can't help yourself, keep your fuss and flurry to yourself. Repeat after me: "it means nothing to them, it means nothing to them, it's just like their elbow or knee". That conversation that you will want to have with your child as they approach their teens? The one where you give them facts and information that will keep them safe and healthy? That conversation starts now. Start now, start early. Be calm, be natural, (or fake it, if it isn't natural to you to be calm about this subject), be matter-of-fact. If you start now, you can take it in baby steps. "That's your penis" today; discussions of what it's theoretically for a few years from now; conversations about safe sex for someone considering actually practising it a few years after that. Do you want a child who can come to you with these concerns? A child who will let you know at least some of what's going on with them sexually? Who doesn't fear telling you about the pressure he/she may be feeling to get involved before s/he's ready? If you want to be there for your child when they enter the sometimes scary waters of adult sexuality - and that day will come! - then you have to be there for them now, letting them know it's okay, and you're okay with it. Do it for your child's sake.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2005, Mary P

Friday, December 02, 2005

In The Trenches

Not all that long ago, Misfit decided that all those parents of quirky kids needed a happy, supportive place to go and see that they are not alone, that you can parent a child who is not cut from the standard mold, take great satisfaction in it, fight the battles that litter your day -- and stay sane, all at the same time. What better happy, supportive spot than right in your living room, drink at your elbow, with your laptop cosily warming your thighs? (Never mind with the snickers and double entendres: on a cold January day, it's something I genuinely appreciate about my laptop!) She's started this great blog, called appropriately "In The Trenches". And she invited me to write for it, too! Now I have TWO blogs on my dashboard - I'm so impressed with myself!! And the big coup? Bright, sassy, funny-as-hell Candace got Susan on board. Susan, whose posts always make me think, usually make me laugh and often give me that old lump-in-the-throat even as I smile, she writes with such clarity, reality, and hope. I'm thrilled to be part of this group of women! Here's what it's all about, taken from Candace's first post:

I want this to be a place where parents of challenging children can come to commiserate and get ideas. I want this to be a place where people who have challenging children in their lives (aunts, uncles, daycare providers, teachers, etc.) can come to share stories, to learn things, and yes, to vent, because those of us who love challenging children need to vent, without judgment. I also want this to be a place where good days can be celebrated. Good days, for us, are days where the child is still whole and the caregiver hasn't left with the credit cards and a full tank of gas. Good days are days where your child finishes a test in the allotted time, or puts her face in the water during swimming lessons without working herself up into hysterics. Good days for us are often bad days for the parents of typical children. Welcome. Grab a drink, get comfortable, and share the ride with us.
Isn't that great? If that sounds like you, or someone you know, come on over and check it out!

Guest Blogging/co-Blogging

Little Ms. Prolific has suddenly blossomed from my fingertips when I wasn't paying attention. If you all pop over to Matthew's blog, you'll see I'm today's guest blogger, going on at some embarrassing length about family traditions. Thanks for the airtime, Matthew! And if you pop over to Candace's new blog, you'll find that I'm a contributor, and have actually put a post there today, as well. Insomnia isn't entirely a bad thing...

Oooo...He said THAT word

Arthur and Darcy play amidst gales of laughter. Darcy: You're a poo-poo! (BWAH-hahahah) Arthur: No, YOU're a poo-poo! Darcy: No, YOU'RE a poo-poo! Arthur: No, YOU'RE a poo-poo! . . . . minutes pass, the game continues... . . poo-poo poo-poo-poo-poo poo-poo-poopety-poo poo.poo poop . . .....BWAH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.... . . . Darcy: No, YOU'RE a poo-poo! Arthur: No, I'm not, 'cuz poo goes inna toilet. Darcy: You're a poo-poo toilet! Arthur: Mary! Mary, Darcy said toilet!!!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Being Piagetian* Again

The boys requested that I cover them with a blanket. I obliged, using this afghan lovingly hand-crafted by my MIL, and which, despite not being anything like a pink girl, I love - it's a throwback to my childhood and all the stuff my gran and my mum crocheted. My gran, who taught me to knit, and practically stood on her head trying to understand what little lefty me was doing with those needles! But never once did she suggest I do it the "right" way. Anyway. So there they all are, covered with the blanket, giggling and squirming and generally being adorable. I recognize a blog-worthy photo op. when I see one, and race for the camera. I stand before the giggling blanket with the camera. Suddenly, the wriggling stops and from the blanket comes a unified chorus:


*Children at this age are solidly in the middle of the time when it is very difficult for them to understand the world from any perspective but their own. Piaget noted this first - not that parents throughout the milennia hadn't twigged to it already - but Piaget was the one who gave it a scientific name (the egocentrism of the Pre-Operational phase) and stuck it in a neat developmental framework. They say "cheese" because they can see me with the camera, and not a one of them realizes that I can't see them. Not a one.