Sunday, July 31, 2005

Sunday

The first day of my holidays. Spent most of it helping my brother move, and, as far as moves goes, it went very smoothly. Seems I impressed the socks off my sister-in-law's dad (my brother's father-in-law, too!) with my lifting prowess. See my muscles?? Not what they used to be, really, at all. I gave up going to the gym - all you dedicated parents will understand this - because it took too much time away from being with my daughter. I need one that opens EARLY in the morning. If I can't do it before work, I have to go in the evenings, and my youngest, who just turned twelve, is at that oh, so delightful stage where she craves mummy time. I know this stage is fleeting. In another year or so her focus will shift outside the house, and I don't want to miss these last precious months: "Just a minute, dear...not right now, dear...later on, sweetie...hang on a sec, love..." and then, when I have that spare minute, she'll be gone. Can't let that happen. So I'm spending time with my sweet daughter and losing my muscle tone. A friend suggested I find a gym she can go to as well. Great idea!! I discovered that any gym that offers weight training, which is what I do, has a standard policy against children under the age of fifteen or so entering the premises. Insurance issues, I'm sure. That leaves me with aerobics, which I hate, hate, hate, and besides, since my son was born (4400 grams/ 9 lb 10 - in 87 minutes of labour) I can't bounce, jump, or even jiggle too strenuously without peeing myself. *Sigh*. I'm considering surgery for this one. All the Kegels in the world haven't fixed it. So, scratch the aerobics. (Yay!) Can't go to weight gym for a while. (Boo!) I can work out with the free weights I have at home, and go for long walks. It's a compromise. It's even a sacrifice, but Emma is worth it! And tomorrow I'll start my archive posting.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Last Day of Work!!!

I'm on holiday, I'm on holiday!! Last day of work today, out with a girlfriend tonight, three tangy lime margaritas into my holiday, and I'm having SUCH a great holiday!! And see what a good girl I am? I'm home and it's only 10:30 p.m. Woo-hoo. :-)

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Awwww!

Zach's natural state is happy. He leans into life with a smile - and with one of his ever-present airplanes clutched tight in one dimpled fist. He seems always to be on the verge of a bubble of laughter. He's just that kind of kid. However, he is only human, and he is only just two. Today he arrived wailing. Even through the closed front door I could hear it, and I recognized his, er, voice. Some mornings are like that! Respecting his distress, mom and I keep the transition very brief. In less than two minutes mom is driving off and I am holding the boy, who is holding his precious airplane. We snuggle on the couch for a bit as he calms. Harry, though not generally well attuned to emotional subtleties, has in fact noticed Zach's distress. He leans close and hands Zach a truck. (Not just any truck, either; this is the truck he sought out the minute he arrived, and has been clutching ever since. What a kind little fellow!) Zach reaches out to receive the truck, and gazes solemnly at Harry. Harry smiles encouragingly back. They hold his pose for a beat, and then Zach, with the teardrops still glistening on his cheek, breaks into a beaming smile. And offers Harry his airplane.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Fool me Once...

Naptime. George and Zach sleep on cots in the kitchen. I hear rumblings and rustlings as I type in the basement. Go upstairs to check. Zach is sound asleep. George is faking it, eyes squinched shut and twitching, body tight. I stand very still for a moment. George holds his pose. "Hmmm..." I muse out loud to myself. "Zach is asleep. George is asleep, too." George smiles. "I wonder who could have made that noise up here?" George doesn't move, his eyes stay tightly shut, but his voice slips between his almost-closed lips. "Zach."

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Where have all the Timbits gone?

We generally make a Tim Horton's run when Liam is with us. He loves to go - as do the rest - so why not? A coffee for me, a box of Timbits to share, and all for less than $4.00. Can't beat that for an outing! We assemble ourselves around the table, Alice on my lap. I dole out the timbits. Two each, your choice of sour cream or chocolate. The older boys, predictably, wolf theirs and look for more. Being in the business of civilizing them, I tell them they will have to wait until everyone is finished their first helping before we get seconds. They subside, and mournfully watch the slower chewers. A reasonable interval later, I begin to pass round their third and final timbit. But what is this? I'm two short! How can this be? The answer is right under my nose. Alice beams up at me - as much as any girl can beam with a face smeared with chocolate, dusted with sugar, and cheeks bulging with doughnut contraband, one timbit on each side! Good thing extra timbits only cost 12 cents apiece!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Tattling

I don't tend to get a lot of tattling in the daycare. This is not because the children are such kind and giving types, nor even my extraordinarily well-honed child-rearing techniques, but is merely a developmental thing. It's about Rules. Tattlers understand about Rules. Generally, children are four, or very close, before they become aware of (and noxiously devoted to) Rules. Whereas two and three year olds are quite capable of understanding that they are not to jump on the couch, it takes a four year old to grasp that this is A Rule. Rules can be applied to others: ever wondered why your previously delightful three year old has suddenly become so damned bossy? And, aha! They can tell on people who break A Rule. Hence the tattling. George, at three and a half, has just begun to experiment with it. It isn't getting him very far, and I know that, unrewarded, it will fade. Liam, though, is five-almost-six, and a tremendous tattle-tale. It must be paying off somewhere in his life. A dozen times a day he races to me with urgent news of someone or other's petty misdemeanor. My response is always the same, a low-key acknowledgement of his proclamations, and a direction to go back and play. I make a point of NOT going to check on whatever he's tattled about. This works well with children in whom tattling is not well-established. It lessens the likelihood of it becoming entrenched. However, when a child comes with the tattling firmly established, direct communication can't be beat. The best way to approach a child in the Rules-and-Tattling stage? I have some Rules for Tattling!! Brilliant, no??

Rules for Tattling: If someone is bleeding, tell me. If someone is in immanent danger, tell me. Otherwise, don't.
We had the chance to try this out on Friday afternoon. Liam came charging over to me, the desperate importance of his message and its earth-shattering urgency broadcast by every quiver of his stocky little body. "Mary!! Harry's taking the couch-cushions off the couch!!!!" I respond in as bored a tone as I can manage - which is pretty convincing, because I am bored, bored out of my mind, with all the tattling... "Liam. Is anyone bleeding?" "No." "Is anyone in danger?" "No." "No one's going to get hurt?" "Ah, no." "Then you're just tattling, and I don't need to know." With each question and answer, the dissatisfaction and astonishment increases in his face and voice. Am I not going to do anything? Am truly I not going to Enforce a Rule?? (This isn't merely a power thing: it really does bug them when rules are flouted.) He tries once more to get me to see the horror of the situation. "But Harry's taking the couch cushions off!!" "Liam. Liam, listen to me. Liam: I. Don't. Care." Oops. I was doing just fine until then. "I don't care" was a tactical error, and I knew it the instant it fell from my weary lips. It was entertaining, though, to watch Liam wrestle with this idea. His expressive face was a riot of conflict: astonishment, dismay, horror, exasperation, and then increasingly, wonderment, a sense of possibility, and enthusiasm. Suddenly he reached his conclusion, the only sane and natural one when presented with an inert adult who'd just said she didn't care, and erupted, his fists in the air, bellowing out as he races down the hall to the couch: "Yessssss!!!!!!!" *sigh*

Friday, July 22, 2005

Priorities

Liam: You can't hitch-hike to Alberta because there are tornadoes there, and there won't be any TV.

Machiavelli, Jr.

It's nap/quiet time. Some of the boys are too old for naps, and thus play quietly in the livingroom. The babies are in cribs upstairs. The middlers sleep or lay quietly with books and soft toys on low cots in the kitchen, out of sight of the livingroom, until quiet time is over. Harry is one of the middlers. Some days he naps, others he doesn't. Today looks to be a no-nap day, though he has managed "quiet" relatively well thus far. But he's bored and wants to be with the big boys in the livingroom. I'm still hoping he'll drop off. A voice comes from the cot behind me as I type. "Mary, c'n I get up now?" "No, Harry. It's still quiet time. Shush." I hear him shuffle, his feet drum a bit, he starts to hum. "Harry!" I intone warningly. Quiet descends. For maybe 90 seconds. The voice resumes. "Is it still quiet time?" "Yes. I will tell you when quiet time is over. Meantime, Be Quiet." I can see Harry trying to see the boys in the other room, but he can't from where he lays. Nonetheless, they are the inspiration for his next attempt. "Mary? Mary, there's a big mess out there, and it's too much for them to clean up. I need to go help." Nice to see such altruism at such a young age.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Family Dynamics

Kyle: You guys! Let's play Normal Family now. Mary: And what's a "normal" family? (A wry adult is curious as to the innocent's definition of that word.) Kyle: Well, I like Normal Family. Right now they're just playing "Fight Family". Nice to know that this is not normal for the boy!

Behind the Scenes

Sometimes there's another whole story behind what they think they're telling you... Harry is admiring a flower in my front yard. "Mary, may I sniff your plant?" "Well, of course you can, sweetie." He positions himself carefully, leans over, closes his eye, and takes a deep and audible snort. Straightens and smiles, very pleased with his little self. "There. I didn't eat it. I just sniffed it."

News Flash

Liam zips into the kitchen, where I'm preparing lunch. Leaning toward me, he bounces a bit as he speaks, so intense is his focus. "Mary, can I tell you something?" "Sure." "Tenandtenistwenty, andIsawHarryPotter 3!!!!" And before I can respond - zip! - he's gone again.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

To the Right, Left, or...?

Travel on my street these days is an ongoing adventure. One morning there is the usual dirt road just beyond my porch steps, the next, a gaping hole. Lately, our sidewalks have been vanishing in segments, to be replaced with stroller-jolting mixes of sand and very large-grade gravel. This does not, as you can see, deter us. We strike out boldly, lured by the noise, dust, and great big machines. However, it can be a bit confusing if one, in the interests of being a Good Role Model, tries to obey all the directives provided by the road workers. Take for example, this sign: Does that say what I think it says? Let's take a closer look: Yes, yes that's what it says. So, good law-abiding citizens that we are, where do we go from here?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Letting Fly

I greeted the children on the porch this morning. At quarter to eight, it was cooler outside than in, with a bit of a breeze. I sipped my tea and read. By quarter past nine, they've all arrived, and are playing on and about the porch. Two with a few toy cars and trucks, Liam going mad with the broom, and a few playing with chalk on the sidewalk. Emma and I chat. I look up, and Darcy has dropped his shorts - only to a few inches under his groin, where shorts and underwear have formed a Gordian knot on his sweaty thighs - and is piddling on the sidewalk. And, because his clothing are not sufficiently lowered, all over his shorts and navy blue briefs. Now, the children know the drill by now. They may go outdoors, with my permission and supervision. They may not let fly at will. The rationale behind why one spot is acceptable and another is not is too variable and complex for them just yet, so we keep it simple: you must ask first. It suffices nicely. I frog-march the boy in, scolding a bit: "Darcy. You didn't ask! If you need to go pee, then you have to tell me!" His wet clothes go in the wash, as I just happen to be doing a load, he is sent to the toilet (though I'm quite aware there's nothing left, there is a point to be made) and he wears a spare pair of briefs while he waits for his clothes to dry. On a day like this, they'll take less than an hour on the line. Later on we all play in the nicely shaded back yard. Darcy is back in his freshly-laundered clothes. All is going without incident, until - Again?!? What is this boy thinking?? Thankfully, this time I'm more alert, and I catch him in the act of lowering his shorts. Why is he not alerting me? He freezes when he sees me closing on him. Upstairs we go again, him getting the mini-lecture as we go. "You have to tell me when you need to go!" This time he pees quite effectively in the toilet, and his clothing stays dry. Half hour later, I call them for lunch, and catch Darcy ONCE AGAIN dropping his drawers! Argh! What gives? I have no idea. It's not a bladder infection, because he can stop the stream, and he can hold it in when told, and he's not going more frequently than normal. So then...? No idea. No moral or punch line, either, just a window into my day. Thursday, when he's back, he'll probably display impeccable toilet manners, and today will just be a blip. Some days are like that.

Anything But That!!

Liam is a bit weird about food. He didn't used to be: after the standard toddler tussle about the issue, it ceased to be an issue. However, in the intervening years since he's been in my full-time care, he's developed some anxiety about the subject. First thing through the door in the morning, he asks what we're having for lunch. His eyes are wide and intent, his demeanor worried. I am a seat-of-the-pants woman when it comes to meal prep. At 8:30 in the morning, I generally have no idea what's for lunch. I see his anxiety, though, so I'm ultra casual about it, "Liam, it's 8:30. I have no idea. But don't worry, you'll like it." Generally he does. As far as I can make out, he likes most things, and his dislikes are few and pretty standard. If he doesn't like something on his plate he eats it with no fuss, except for the doleful expression on his face. That's how he is with me. One wonders what has occurred in the intervening three years. Anyway. The other day, Liam and Emma were playing The Sims on my computer. Emma had, at Liam's instruction, created a family comprised of Liam, Emma, and Liam's dad. Partway into the game, he had another thought. "Emma! Let's make Beryl! We need a Beryl in our family!" (Beryl is dad's live-in girlfriend.) "I'm sorry, Liam, but it's too late in the game to add another person into the family. The game won't let us do that now." Liam is disappointed. He is not deterred, though, and seeing another character walking down the street, he points her out. "What about her?" "Hey, what a great idea! That's Mary, Liam! She lives over there," Emma explains, indicating another house, where Emma has created a model of her own family, "but we can invite her to visit, and if we're real nice to her, in a while we can ask her to move in with us. Do you want to do that?" Liam's little face radiates delight. "Yeah!!!" Split-second pause. Liam's little face radiates horror. "No, no, don't do that!" Emma is naturally curious about this schizophrenic moment. "Why not, Liam?" "She'll make us eat ONIONS!"

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Computer Woes

My old, long-suffering computer is probably no more. It's been dying by inches for a long time now, getting slower and slower, refusing to run my word processing and my browser at the same time, freezing unexpectedly, sometimes taking five attempts to boot up, and, most recently, having drivers fall off, one at a time. One day Rio stops burning music; another, we can't copy pictures from the camera to a CD. Oh, and my printer? The box knows it's there, and thinks it's printing - but it's not. It's an Epson, hasn't been used in three months, at least - which means the jets are all clogged impermeably with dry ink. My computer skills are limited to running my favourite programs. When stuff like this happens, I'm a blind man in an art gallery: I know there's good stuff there somewhere, but it's hopelessly beyond my reach. Yesterday I bit the bullet, backed everything up, and ran the " Product Recovery Program". I wish I could say this had solved it, though I confess I was a bit dubious even as I made the attempt. That's probably what went wrong: I'm being punished for my lack of faith. While the programs that I've reinstalled now work quickly (!!), I still have no drivers. Damn. No printer, no Rio, no photos. Damn. No modem, no internet. Damn!!! What all this means is that I'll probably be buying a new computer, which I can do - what else is a line of credit for? The kids can have the old one for games. This will make them happy, and me, too. What this means for YOU, my dedicated reader, is that I may not be able to post every day; and when I do, I'll be posting in the evening instead of the afternoon. Our second computer (officially my partner's work computer) is in the basement. MY computer is in the kitchen. Next week is my over-the-top week: all my part-timers, all my full-timers, all my formerly-on-holidayers will be back, all together, all at once. Lord help me. I will scarcely have a moment to call my own, and I certainly will not be able to hide in the basement, much as I might like to, to type up entertaining anecdotes for my entertainment. Damn! I love blogging. Focussing on this incident or that event and framing it so it's funny is my ray of sanity some days. When will I need this more than next week?? Typical, huh? Right when you most need it, your therapist bails on you. Computers. Can't live with ' em...

Friday, July 15, 2005

Beshat

Alice was home yesterday, having had a bout of diarrhoea the previous evening. No more explosions yesterday, though, so she's back to me today, her usual beaming-with-glee-and-good-humour self. She plays, she naps, she eats just like normal. She has a messy diaper. Soft, but normal. She plays some more, eats some more, passes some gas, starts to fret. I scoop her up to remove her from the high chair, and am well into the motion, too committed to stop, when it hits me: acidic, foul miasma emanates from the child and envelopes us both. My right wrist, under her bottom, feels damp and slimy. Oh, damn, that wasn't gas. Not even close. This is an occupational hazard; I'm not at all squeamish, but I don't have to like it. In less than two seconds she's on her back, waiting to be changed. I use a baby wipe on my arm before starting on her. It's everywhere: front, back, sides, legs... Her bright yellow shorts are lined with darker yellow slime; brown spots blossom between the pink and yellow flowers on her shirt. Way up past her belly button, down almost to her kness. The girl is thoroughly beshat. She's very compliant, laying still and smiling at me as I use up wipe after wipe on her little body. A bath is probably required, but other children are stirring from their naps, and there won't be time. This will have to do. Alice dealt with, I turn to myself, and scrub my hands thoroughly. Rinse off the lather. No, I can still smell it. Back I go again, another thorough scrub, this time right up to the elbows. I can still smell it. Next time, the "anti-bacterial" soap and the nail brush. No. Why can't I shake the stench? I'm staring at my hands in consternation, when I see it. Camouflaged by my black tank top's swirly textured pattern, a wide, shimmering swathe of watery shit meanders all across my left breast. How fast can a woman strip off a shirt? Not fast enough, when she's trying not to get toxic waste on her face in the process. I admit my hypocrisy: there was no time for Alice to have a bath, but plenty for Mary to have a shower. There are limits.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A New Project

Harry is busy with the blocks, creating a long “train with steps on it”. As he works, he sings:

“Ah. Way. Mih-muh may-r r, No. Cri fu a beh The lih, lur Jee-uh Lay dow ih ee ed.”
Recognize it? You don't have the advantage I did, of a reasonable facsimile of the tune. Harry is remembering happy, cooler days, and is treating us to Away In A Manger. A day or two I complained about his diction (or lack thereof). Today I'm seeing it as sweet, quirky, and, most importantly, A Project. I love a good roll-up-my-sleeves-and-get-into-it kid challenge! This one cries out to be tackled. Speech is clearly important to the boy, since he indulges ceaselessly. Why not make it easier for people to understand him? There are a few problem areas with his speech, but the most consistent is that he doesn't put the final consonant onto his words. Right then. We'll start with that. Oooh. A Project. I am a happy woman.

Sad but True

“Zach! Come on, love. In the door, please.” Zach is hunkered down on the front porch, peering and pointing. “A ants! Oh! Lookita ants!” “Yes, there's an ant, all right. But it's time to come in for lunch. Come on in.” I hold the door open with my right knee, as my left arm is filled with Alice, who sits astride my hip, a bag dangles from my left elbow, another from my right, and my right hand is holding the two t-shirts we won earlier today. If Zach doesn't hustle himself, something will fall or break - my back being the most likely candidate for the latter. Zach is still engrossed in the ant, not really hearing me. Emma, who is coming up the steps just behind us, finds the key to move him. “Yeah, Zach." Chirpy, matter-of-fact, encouraging. "Come on. There are lots of ants inside.”

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Hey, Mom, We're Famous!!

A man approaches us as we walk down the street. “Would you like a free t-shirt?” Well, it's the middle of the day and we're on a crowded city street. If he's some sort of nut job I can always create a scene. Thus bolstered by the security of my fellow-pedestrians, I tell him, yes, I'd like a free t-shirt. In truth, I never wear the things, but I'm sure my son will like whatever it turns out to be. Then I notice the microphone in the fellow's hand. Then I notice the cameraman in behind him. They are shadowed by the girl who is barely visible behind the heap of t-shirt she carries. Oh, yes. Seems I'm about to be taped for television. Oh, Lord. I'm wearing my Ugly Sundress. The one whose only virtue (not to be taken lightly when the forecast is 33/humidex 45) is that it's cool. But flattering? Not on your life. Pretty? Not even close. The background is fine: it's a kinda funky dark and light blue swirly print that looks waterish, and if they'd stopped there, it would be a Pretty Sundress. The problem is the dolphins. Honkin' big, bulbous, beige dolphins. Cavorting all over me. Curling over a breast, dashing across my belly, bouncing round my ass, all in ways designed to draw one's attention to, and exaggerate the size of, these attributes. I had originally planned to go to a park; I never wear this thing in public. At the park are home-based mothers. Sweat-stained, burpcloth moms, dosed in Eau de Sour Milk, are not “public”. They understand too well the significant accomplishment of simply getting yourself and your offspring dressed and out the door in the morning to waste any time worrying about another mom's fashion sense. I changed my plans, but I didn't change my dress. And now I'm on television... Thank God I'm wearing my totally cool Bluesfest hat and my kick-ass sunglasses. It's the local Cable Station, doing a promo, getting the word out that they've changed their name. They let me know this, then they put the mike in front of each child in the stroller. “What's your name?” As if any child under the age of three is going to answer this question, much less when asked by a strange man shoving something in their face. I help the man along, give them each of the children's names. “This is Zach, and that's Alice.” Each child gets their four seconds of air time. The microphone and camera move on to Darcy. “The one in the front, he might tell you his name.” I say helpfully. What would you do, if you were not quite three, and someone pushed something roughly popsicle-shaped, albeit of a strange texture, and black, right up to your mouth? I mean, really. His mouth opens, his tongue comes out... “Or, he might lick the microphone.” I add, even more helpfully. The fellow takes it in stride. Holding up the mike he hollers out “Lysol! We need Lysol here!”, while I cackle merrily in the background. I dunno. Will this sound bite survive the editing?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

July 12

Today is my youngest's birthday. Her "lucky" birthday, so she tells me, because this year she turns twelve on the twelfth. I love this age. She's a magical creature right now, teetering on the brink: one minute a little girl, the next a young woman. Still more on the girl end of things, thank goodness, she is a cheerful, friendly, open-hearted young miss who knows her own mind. I remember her birth. Woken shortly before 3 in the morning, I nodded off or rested between contractions for another three hours before I started pacing. Up and down our street, pausing at intervals to breathe, breathe, breathe, my eldest daughter recording the time and duration on a piece of paper I still have. Off to the hospital's birthing centre about 8, with husband and her two older siblings. A friend joined us there, to help with the older children, bringing with her her nursing baby. (Getting too granola for you all yet?) Labour was going gangbusters by then, and at 11:46 a.m., Emma joined our family. We dined on spaghetti, brought by my friend, and prepared in the kitchen that was part of the birthing suite. For dessert, we had cake, with five candles, one for each member of the family. We sang Happy Birthday to Emma for the first time that day, as we will sing it to her for the 13th time this evening at dinner. Five hours later we were on our way home. She was an early teether. First tooth showed up the week she turned four months old. (I nursed her for another nine months.) She crawled and then walked, right on schedule. She had a great 18-month vocabulary, with some curious entries, the most notable being "gookums". Any guesses? Nah, you never will... it meant "socks". Who knows why. She was a terrible sleeper. A year old before I could rely on a solid night's sleep. She has always been the most strongly social of my children. Self-confident, and ready to make friends with people of all ages. She chooses friends for who they are and how they treat her; she scorns the "popular" kids who seem to get there by denigrating others and trying to be older than they are. She's the one and only truly bilingual person in our household, having had the advantage of the "middle French immersion" program at school. (Where the children are, from day 1, taught entirely in French. Doesn't take too long for them to catch on! Middle immersion starts in 4th grade, also her first year in school. Prior to that she stayed home with mum, aka "homeschooled.") She is at that delightful stage where, although she enjoys her friends, she also enjoys her family. Such a nice balance she maintains. I get wistful when I consider that she'll almost certainly lose it in adolescence. And that's what makes this birthday particularly poignant for me: the spectre of adolescence. I know that in the next year or two, we will almost certainly lose the closeness we now share. Family will become far less significant to her than friends; parents will become intrusions rather than welcome resources and supports. We may regain our closeness when she emerges as a fully-fledged adult. I hope we do. I could hope that we will stay close during her adolescence; I know some mothers and daughters do. I can't risk that hope, though: heartbreak lays there. Instead I savour these last months of precious time, and prepare to step back when the time comes. Happy Birthday, my love!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Another Link

Proud momma is boasting now. Check out my daughter's latest post. Isn't she great??

Hot and Sticky

I've read this through, and it's a boring post. My apologies in advance. I'm blaming the heat: I'm too enervated to be either clever or funny... Phew. Currently it's 32 degrees out there, humidex of 38. That's some hot! Zach, Harry and I got back from our morning outing about an hour ago, which consisted of running - no, strolling - a few errands, carefully chosen for the strength of the business's air-conditioning. We moved at a very leisurely pace, we lingered in the cool, we meandered home. Once home, I stripped them to their underwear, sponged them down with a cool cloth while they stood in front of the fan, then tanked them up with still more cool water before laying them down for a nap. They are not sleeping, but they are having a quiet time. This is fine. I almost had the day off! When Harry signed with me, he was not to come on Mondays, but his mother got a promotion about a year ahead of schedule, and doesn't feel she can work a shortened week for the next couple of months, so he was here today after all. Zach was to have stayed home with Gramma, who is visiting, but they're having someone in to replace a window, and it will be "too crazy" there to have him around. This latter does not impress me much: there are three adults at home - Mom, Dad, and Gramma. (Mom is on holiday, Dad works from home, and Gramma is here, officially visiting her grandson.) Surely between the three of them they can manage one two-year-old? I know the parents would be unimpressed if I took a day off simply because I was expecting a workman in the house, unless, of course, the environment would be unsafe. But for mere convenience? Not likely. Ah, well. They pay for the space, it is their right to use it! Still, to have had a day off waved under one's nose and then whipped away causes a little wistfulness... We had a nice outing, though. To be honest, a mere two tots, 2 and 3 years old at that, feels pretty much like a day off! Our favourite part was snacks at Second Cup, where we ate, chatted amongst ourselves and with some other patrons. The manager came round to compliment me on their behaviour - I love it when this happens! - and gave us a twofer coupon. Wasn't that nice? Too often we are all too willing to notice and criticize rotten behaviour, but completely overlook the quiet, well-behaved, interesting and charming little ones - precisely because they're not raising a ruckus! Me, I generally make a point of complimenting people about their children when it's possible. It's nice to be on the receiving end! (I also compliment pregnant women on their appearance, and parents who are dealing effectively with a public temper tantrum, or other difficult behaviour. We need to do this for each other!) I think that's about it. As I said, not up to my usual standards. I'll try harder tomorrow, I promise!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Diggin' Holes

Few better ways to spend a day, when you're a kid. Over to our favourite midsummer park, which was, with my five in it, a veritable hive of activity. Liam, Kyle, and Adam all dig holes. Liam is aiming for the tarp that he knows lines the bottom of the sandbox, about a metre down. Alice sits in the soft sand at the edge of the excavation, happily scraping rills in the dirt with a yellow plastic rake. Emma is busy making a trap, and Zach races around, surreptitiously dumping shovels of sand back into all these lovely holes. A tribute either to his skill or to the others' oblivion, he is never caught out! Emma's trap is the focus of attention for a while: a hole as deep as her arm is long, covered with a lattice of twigs, layered with dandelion leaves and clumps of dried lawnmowed grass. All the children are involved in finding this stuff. Then she carefully covers the top with sand, and, to the great satisfaction of all, it's virtually undetectable. Inspired, Liam decided to do the same. Armed with more energy than focus, however, within five minutes of frenetic digging, he has created not one sizeable hole, but rather nine small holes, which radiate away from Emma's big one in a gentle arc. It's quite the sight. Emma helps him cover the largest of his nine holes, and although it is far too small to be functional, makes everyone happy. Each of the ambulatory children take turns pretending to fall in the holes, one after the other. Being the largest, Emma goes last, and, much to the delight of her audience, stages a spectacular pratfall through Liam's trap. However, during her recovery, she genuinely stumbles over one of the multiple holes beyond that, so that she ends up full length in the sandbox, with her right arm up to its armpit in her own trap. How about that? It worked - for real! The kids are thrilled and delighted, and the fall is re-enacted many times per small boy. By the time we are ready to head home, I am the caregiver for a bunch of sand-encrusted child-shaped figurines, each one cuter - and grittier - than the one before. We love sandboxes!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Link

This has nothing to do with my usual topics, but I came across this in a blog I've been reading now and then for a bit, and I was so struck by it I had to pass it on! He's writing about the London bus-and-subway bombings, from a poignant and pointed perspective: A Prayer Answered. (No, it's not schmaltzy.)

TGIF - a bit of a whine

Oh, thank God, thank God it's Friday! It's been a tough week. Bear with me, here. I am about to vent and say all manner of negative things. Please remember while this is going on that a) I genuinely like and enjoy these children and b) I'm tired and in great need of a break. I'm integrating four children. One is bad. Four is beyond difficult. I hadn't anticipated this, since three of these children are quite familiar to me: Liam was in my full-time care for three years, and this is his third summer with me. He lives in the neighbourhood, and his dad is a friend of mine. He's far from new. Kyle and Adam have been coming to me for July's since - well, since before Adam was born! Four years? Harry is new, but he's just finished his third week. He should be settling in nicely by now. And he is, really, as much as can be expected when the population of the daycare is in such flux. July has been my nightmare month for several years now. I have too many teachers as clients! If I could afford to, I'd be well set to take the entire summer off, but I can't. As it is, these teachers stay home with their kids - and good for them, say I!! - and reduce my attendance, and thus my summer paycheques, by 20 to 60%. It's not too difficult to find other kids to care for, kids whose caregivers are also taking time off. But, what with holidays amongst my own compliment of children, and incoming children, my attendance for the summer constantly changes. This is stressful. Since I have all these new/temporary children this month, my attendance varies from 3 to 8 children on any given day, and they're all getting used to each other. They won't actually get used to each other, because there won't be the time. *sigh* So the dynamic is more than usually negative. I spend more time correcting, instructing, reprimanding. There are more conflicts and misunderstandings between the children, more tattling. Integration is like that: more negative, more drudge-work, fewer rewards. Wearing. This is one of the many reasons why I am taking the month of August off. The Entire Month. The Entire, Bless't Month. Though I've wanted to do this for some time, this is the first year I can afford it. I'm so excited!! It's the light at the end of my tunnel. Meantime, though, there's Liam, the maniac child from... No, not there. That's not fair. He's a nice boy, generally well-meaning and endlessly cheerful, but loud, and frenetically active. He doesn't walk if he can run, run if he can bounce, bounce silently if he can yell too, bounce and yell if he can do all at once. And believe me, he can. I comfort myself with the fact that his energy is almost wholly positive, but still, it's wearing. He's also developed some character traits that irk me. Primary among these is the competitiveness, competitive in the negative way. He doesn't use the accomplishments of others to spur him on to greater achievement, which would be a good thing. No, he must simply always be the best, others must always be inferior. At everything. If he can't be the best, he either quits, cheats, or denigrates the other's accomplishments. "So?" he'll sneer. " I can..." It's very tedious. And not nice to see. We're working on it, because I can't not do something, but I know that, given that I have him only two weeks this summer (another heartfelt Thank God here), it's a lost cause. Kyle (5), and Adam (3) are genuinely nice boys. I have no problem with them at all, at all. Adam misses his mommy when he's with me, and we tend to have one quiet but sad teary bout each day, but with a little comforting he recovers nicely. His big brother is kind and supportive. They're very sweet. Harry is coming along nicely, but he's only just turned three, and he's young for that. Yes, he's very verbal, but his articulation is... well, to be frank, I don't much enjoy the way he talks. Each syllable comes out slowly, yet is poorly articulated. He speaks in a grating monotone, and it's loud, loud, loud. He drools while he speaks, and if you're too close, you get sprayed. And to top it all off, it's ceaseless. The boy talks absolutely incessently. He's wearing. He's a lot of work. He's toilet trained, but he needs assistance, which makes for endless trips up the stairs. I think I'll bring the potty out until he's more independent. Bah. Enough whinging. I need a holiday! And I'm going to get one, which is what is getting me through this month. I will have earned it by the time it arrives. And when I'm back in September, I'll have a nice, stable attendance. I'll be refreshed, and I'll enjoy all the challenges of the job, instead of just feeling put upon by them. Let's hear it for holidays!!!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Counting

There's been a lot of counting going on around here these days. Zach has been revelling in the thrill of numbers. Sitting at the top of the slide, he calls out, "One! Two! Goooooo....." Lots of fun. Eating his dinner, he counts off mouthfuls. "One! Two! One!" Running laps through the living - dining - front hall loop, he bellows numbers as he thunders past. "One! Two! Two! Two! One!" Just imagine how much fun he'll have when he knows more than two numbers! Adam and Kyle are counting heavy machines through my front window. There must have been an awful lot of activity out there this morning, because suddenly I hear Adam's voice. "A TRILLION!!!" Kyle builds on this, "a trillion and ONE, a trillion and TWO, a trillion and THREE!" Adam catches the pattern and continues, "A trillion and FOUR!" Not to be outdone by his little brother, Kyle changes tactics. "Infinity! Infinity and beyond!" (Buzz Lighyear will never really die.) Adam is unfazed: "Infinity and beyond and ONE...!"

Things To Do Before You're Ten

I found this great idea over at Aginoth's blog, which I think warrants consideration. As he says, adults come up with lists of "Things to do before I die", but this one is every bit as important, and, I think, arguably more fun, and way easier to accomplish! I was pleased to note that I'd done every one of the items on that list. Thanks, mum, gran, and grandad, for my enriched childhood! Which largely comprised of lots of supportive, benign neglect, while I went out and mucked about, sometimes on my own, sometimes with a hoard of other children. I am also pleased to note that the list does NOT include "enrichment activities" like lessons, classes, contests, awards, and competitions. Nothing scheduled at all, in fact. Not even a whole heck of a lot of parental involvement required - unless, of course, the parents want to relive a slice of their childhood! Perhaps there's a lesson to be learned here? What would YOUR list include?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Constructioned Out

It has developed into a bit of a pattern that after nap and snack, we head out to the front porch to watch the doings on the street in the afternoon. Today was no different. I bundle them out, and do my head count. I'm one short!! Pop my head back inside, where Darcy sits at one end of a loveseat, a library book from this morning's outing on his lap. "Darcy, we're all outside. Do you want to come watch the machines?" He looks up momentarily. "Oh, no thanks," he says, perfect little man that he is. "I just gonna read for now."

Construction, with pictures!

It's construction season in Canada. Since our viable summer is about 12 minutes long, we need to make the most of it when it arrives. This year, my street is slated for "Water and Sewer Renewal". Judging from the state of the old pipes that have come up out of those trenches they're digging, it was not a moment too soon. It's made for a dusty, noisy, and very exciting summer for the kids. Here are a few views: This is us getting ready for an outing. See how organized we are?? Here you can see, from the rear seat, and going clockwise: Zach in the red shirt, baby Alice in the front seat, George in the yellow shirt, Thomas on the porch, Harry in the red shirt, and Darcy in the striped shirt. Note the four-seater stroller (!), my pride and joy and sanity-saver. Note also the clear hoses on the sidewalk in front of Alice: one of these brings all the water for our entire house. And we have lots. How can that teeny hose do that? Note also the bricks piled to the right, upon which George is sitting. These used to run along the front of our lot, but had to be removed so that the trench holding those tiny white hoses could be dug... This, so I am told, is called a high-hoe. This has the inevitable effect of calling Disney tunes to mind, and so we head off burbling like the seven dwarves... which isn't too inappropriate, now that I think on it. This was the hoe making the initial pass, ripping up the asphalt surface. It will be back twice more, woo-hoo. The road surface removed, the sand underneath is then carted away. It's astonishing how delicate those giant buckets can be: there are gas lines down there, which look just like bright yellow garden hoses. They run across the street, from side to side, and somehow survive the digging intact! I'm so impressed! See that fellow coming up out of the hole? He's had quite the climb. Once at the bottom, he's about six feet below the surface of the road. And sometimes, folks, sometimes when they break through the old sewer mains, there are rats down there. Yes, indeed. Sewer rats are a fact. (But this nice man isn't one of them...) All in all, it's an enthralling summer. I'm enjoying it almost as much as the children. However, I do take time away from the big-screen television set that is my front door long enough to prepare a meal or write a post - unlike little Mia here.

Snippets

Excremental humour is big in this set. Harry announces the following in sing-song, apropos of absolutely nothing: "I'm not going to do a fart!" Gales of laughter all round. (And the point would be?)


Kyle asks Liam: "Liam, can you count to 100?" Apparently he can't, because he cleverly deflects it. "Harry, can you count to 100?" Harry, having less ego, and being interested in the answer, replies easily. "No, I can't. Kyle, can you?" Kyle, relieved that someone has finally given him his opening. "Yes, I can! One, two, skip-a-three, 99, 100!" (Nobody tell him it's "skip-a-few", okay? I like his better.)
Liam: Harry, can you count to poo-poo? BWAH-hahahahahahahahaha... (woo-hoo)

We Are Not Amused

Harry finds a fist-sized model of a house, molded from brightly-coloured plasticene. By the time he's done with it, it's a fist-shaped lump of dubious grey-brown hue. He and Liam spend a happy half-hour slicing this murky thing into small dollops, pressing the dollops together into larger rolls (roughly cylindrical, really) and then dropping these clumps into a brilliant yellow bucket, before tiring of the experience and trotting off to other pursuits, leaving the bucket and its contents behind. You know what it looks like, don't you? Later that afternoon, a parent sees a stray nugget on the front hall floor, and calls my attention to it discreetly: "I think your cat may have..." What? This Cat?? As if the culprit of such a vulgarity is likely to be Mr. Elegance, rather than any of the vast numbers all these loud and far less fastidious creatures that infest his home five days a week. The things that poor cat puts up with already, to be so roundly insulted. Humph. It's just as well he is, like all cats, more beauty than brains, or I'm sure he'd be mortally offended.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

And the Survey Says...

Liam has been most helpfully polling the others on critical issues, then presenting me with the results. While dressing for the park: "Baby Alice doesn't like to wear her hat. She's tryin' to take it off." While at the park this morning: "Kyle says he doesn't need a nap today. Kyle says he never takes a nap at home." While waiting for lunch: "Adam says he doesn't like vegetables. His daddy never makes him eat green stuff." After lunch: "Harry says he doesn't like sunscreen: it feels icky." Liam was told to stop polling the masses. It gives them a false sense of choice.

Energy Boy

Liam is here. Liam, six in September a former full-time daycare tot, now seen only in the summers, alternate weeks. Liam is a fireball. Yes, yes, I know. You parents of one or two children think you have an active child. It's possible you do. It's more likely you ain't seen nothin' till you've seen Liam. He adds a whole new dimension of energy and enthusiasm to the group dynamic. At this moment, a large loader is moving a three-foot high, ten-foot long rill of gravel east - right in front of my house! - to form a more compact, seven foot high mound. This is all to the good, since the rill obstructed my driveway, and the mound is only directly in front of my porch. It may obstruct my view of the neighbours directly across the street, but, truly nice folk as they are, they're not all that visually inspiring. But the drive is clear! My sweetie will be able to do the grocery shopping tonight. (Yes, I'm spoiled. He does the bulk of the cooking, too. This is my second marriage. You learn a thing or two along the way...) Anyway. Liam sits out on the porch, declaiming: “Sweet! A loader!” “Sweet! A dumptruck!” “Sweet! A giant digger!” I guess 'sweet' is the adjective in the kindergarten set. He comes barrelling indoors, his face alight. “Hey! Mary! The driver waved at me!!! The truck driver! He waved at me! And the loader driver, too!! He waved, too! The drivers! They waved at me!!!!” This is how Liam talks! In exclamation marks!! I've watched the show: it's no surprise to me the drivers wave. Liam does not merely wave. Liam stands entirely upright, his body a tightly strung wire, quivering with glee. Both hands wave frantically above his head, waving from the armpits, not the wrists, nor even the elbows, and he hollers at the drivers as he bounces from foot to foot: “Hey! I'm wavin' at you! Hey! In that loader! Hey!!” None of this in a demanding, petulant tone, you understand, only extreme excitement and intensity, and overwhelming excitement. So, yes, they wave. The only question is why this would appear to surprise Liam.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Field Trip

Phew, I'm tired! Only three children: George (3 and a half), Darcy (almost 3), and Liam (almost 6). Grey and gloomy skies, so we'd need to stay indoors. I think this makes it a Museum Day! I confer with the children. The boys are easy. Any museum is a Good Thing, but Emma has more input. "Not the Nature Museum, mummy! We always go there!" Though she enjoys it when we go, she has been there quite a few times in her life. Too bad, though: I like the genome exhibit. It's very cool. Variety is good, though, and thus it was decided: Museum of Science and Tech. today. Getting anywhere is always fun, because we get to ride the bus. Liam voted for the O-Train, a huge favourite with him, but as it runs north-south, and we needed to go east, it was not an option. The O-Train, as a pilot project, runs a whole 8 km and has five teeny stations. Some day, I'm sure, we'll take the O-Train just for the sheer exhilaration of it... So, off we go. It was bedlam. It is summer vacation. At least six busloads of school age children - daycamps, no doubt - were visiting when we arrived. The museum is built like a giant industrial warehouse. Few walls actually reach the ceilings, and the noise bounces everywhere. I managed about an hour of it before I had to leave: one of the very few times when it was my attention span that determined the duration of the outing! The highlight was an old and favourite feature, the Crazy Kitchen. What appears to be a standard, homely, and small 60's style kitchen is...not quite standard. It's askew somehow. Perspective is fiddled with. Your eyes tell you that you are standing on a level surface, your legs tell you that you're on an incline. If you turn too quickly, you feel vertigo. Look left, and you're close to a wall or normal height; look right, and you're far away from the wall, and the woman in the corner is a giant. In fact, just standing still, I was developing distinct symptoms of motion sickness! Liam had a wonderful time in here. He skipped and climbed and jumped. Found it quite exhilarating. George approached with more physical caution, but with equal enthusiasm. He could tell it was strange, somehow, and he was intrigued. Darcy took three steps into the room, and then stood quite, quite still. He watched the other children with interest, but wasn't about to move. When I began to feel queasy, and decided I'd wait outside, I bent down to inform Darcy of my intentions. It was then that I realized he wasn't riveted by fascination, but rather by nausea! The poor tyke was quite, quite green. He and I waited in the hall till the others had had their fun. On the way home, it began to sprinkle a bit. Tiny, deliciously cool raindrops met hot skin. I quite liked it, but Liam was not best pleased. "A raindrop just hit me!" I'm preoccupied, getting us across the street and to the bus stop, and not too responsive. "Um-hmmm." A moment later: "Another raindrop hit me!" "Hey, a raindrop keeps hitting me!" "Another one!" Each announcement is a bit more intense, more indignant than the previous, and after a dozen or so of them, I was finding the intensity hard to take. It was hot and muggy, we had had an excruciatingly loud hour, and we were all more than ready for our lunch. And I just don't see what the fuss is about. "Liam, you can stop now. I don't really need a drop-by-drop announcement of the rain." "But why is the rain only hitting me??" I was puzzled. "What makes you think it's only hitting you?" I asked, but before he can answer, Emma points the way. "Just because no one else is complaining, Liam, doesn't mean it's not getting us, too." "Oh."

Monday, July 04, 2005

Words to the Wise

I've found a line of fridge magnets that I'm quite enjoying. They show the cheesy Happy Housewife you'd find in magazine and newspaper advertising of the 1950's, often with her perfect children, their fresh and healthy cheeks slightly touched up with pink. The two I have so far: Mom sits smiling down at her two daughters, who gaze adoringly upward. Caption: "Remember: The better you do, the More they Expect." This one is particularly apt for the parents of teens. If your children are not yet teens, make this your motto now, and be less than perfect while you are still setting precedents! Miss the odd band practice, forget to get the desired shirt washed in time, tell them you'd rather read a book than coach softball this year, scrimp and save to get yourself that little something extra instead of spending it on some vital-but-fleeting item for a child. (Better yet - let them do the scrimping and saving!) The second one shows smiling, perfectly coiffed mom sitting on a stool in the kitchen, in her immaculate frilly white apron, page-boy collared blouse, and circle skirt. Two children lick the batter from a bowl across the counter. Caption: "I child-proofed my home, but they still get in!" Heeheehee.... Question: should I take them down before the daycare parents see them this evening?

Party Plans and Tactful Tots

I'm having a potluck for the daycare folks tonight. Devious me, I posted the announcement of it ten days ago in my for-the-families blog. My suspicions were thereby confirmed: of seven families, only four are actually reading it. I shake my head in wonderment: who wouldn't want to read cute and funny anecdotes about their kids, every day? It was Canada Day on Friday, hence a long weekend, and much of it was spent doing necessary housework, in preparation for the potluck. After a few days of nice temperatures, it's supposed to get up to 31 degrees this afternoon! In my non-air- conditioned home, I think the party will break up early... This is fine. Heat makes me tired. This week, young Liam joins us. Liam is five-almost-six, a former (and favoured) client. During the summers when he is not in school, he comes to me the alternate weeks that he spends with his dad, who lives in my neighbourhood. This morning he decided to impress me with his counting prowess. "Nineteen, twenty, twenty-one". Breaks off and looks at me. "I can count to twenty-one. Twenty-one is a lot. Are you twenty-one?" "In fact, Liam, twenty-one is pretty young. And I'm a lot more than twenty-one." "So you're old?" (Such is the tact of the five year old.) He's then distracted by a picture on the fridge, a small magnet depicting a much younger me, with Haley (now 19) as a baby on my knee. "Hey! That's you!" I'm impressed he recognized me. A fellow I dated a few years back saw it and said "Who is that? She looks familiar..." "Yes, Liam, it is me. And you know what? I was close to twenty-one in that picture." "Yeah, and it looks just like you now!" Who needs tact when you have such brilliant perception and wide-eyed sincerity?? Yes, I do love this boy!