Friday, June 30, 2006

Mary Drops the Ball. Or Maybe the Sock.

In the summer, my fridge pees on the floor. Why not? Everyone else around here has probably done it at least once. Well, everyone under three feet tall, which doesn't excuse the fridge. Generally I take the proactive step of placing a cleaning rag on the floor in the usual spot before I go to bed at night. In the morning, the cloth reminds me not to step there, and has absorbed the puddle, which usually occurs overnight. No idea why. (Yes, I could take the even more proactive step of having the fridge FIXED, or even of BUYING A NEW ONE!! I know that. But those would cost, like, MONEY, people. (Urgh. Had a house of teens here yesterday. Like, can you tell?) With kids dropping out of the daycare left, right, and centre and two spaces unfilled for September, I am not spending money unless it's essential. Despite its piddling propensities, the fridge keeps things cold just fine. Thus, money spent here is non-essential.) Course, it's been dousing the floor annually for a couple of years now... Anyway. The fridge has once more baptized the floor, but this day I have forgotten the cloth. Of course, George steps in the puddle. We take him to the front hall in which are nested their little storage bins, and pull him out a fresh pair of socks. Off with the wet, on with the dry. As I pull the second sock up, Darcy trots over, a trail of wet footprints behind him. "Mary, I stepped in a puddle." Of course he did. The boys, all three of them, were playing together in the kitchen. Darcy saw George step in the puddle. You'd think someone would have learned a lesson here. Vicarious learning, she ain't happening this morning. Of course, I've been doing this for years. You think I'd have seen this coming - learned my own lesson, in fact! But no. Two boys have wet socks. It gets worse. Darcy is here with his wet socks, and -- I GET HIM DRY SOCKS! WHAT am I THINKING? Peel off the wet socks, and find new socks for Darcy. Am just pulling on the second dry sock, when... you know this is coming, don't you? Arthur appears, a trail of wet footprints behind him. "Mary? Mary..."

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Today is Arthur's last day. You can forgive me if this news is not unmixed with just a smidge of glee. Tomorrow is Mia's last day. I will miss Mia and her cheerful good nature, but I will NOT miss her dad, so again, not an unmixed blessing. On Monday I start a new baby, little Ki-woon, who will only be with me for the summer. He seems a sweet child, and I'm looking forward to his start day on Tuesday.

However. Tomorrow is Darcy's last day. Please share with me a moment of silent mourning.
Oh, I will miss that boy! How I will miss him. No more sneaking grins of brilliant humour, belly laughs at things that pass the others by. No more dry putting-things-in-perspective comments. Who else will have his sturdy gentleness? Who else will be that oasis of calm in the midst of toddler storms? Even when Darcy cries, he does it gently. The boy's graduation is going to leave a hole in the fabric of my days. Sigh.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Gotta Bust out Somehow

Emma: Arthur, it's time to be quiet now. Arthur: All this being quiet is making me want to sing.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Arthur Fixes the Cars

"Work, work, work, work, work, work. Fix, fix, fix, fix, fix. I'm working on the car, Mary. Mary? I'm under the car and I'm fixing it. I put it up on the chairs so I could get to the underneath and now I'm fixing it. Mary. Mary? Mary, you have to get under if you want to see what's on the underneath, and so I'm under it, and when I'm down here I can see and I will fix the car. Fix, fix, fix, fix, fix, fix, fix...It's okay if you get dirty when you're under a car, because there's lots of grease and oil down here, but I will just wash off when I'm done and that will be okay, just to get a little grease and oil on my hands. Work, work, work, work, work...I'm working Mary. Mary? Mary, I'm working down here. I'm a busy guy, and soon the car will be all fixed and ready to drive again. Mary. Mary?"

Monday, June 26, 2006

Windows into Family Life

From George: "He is a aaahs-hole. Darcy, say aaahs-hole." Me: ??? Who taught you that word? G: My daddy. Mom's explanation, looking mildly exasperated (this mom does every emotion mildly, far as I can make out): "Dad was talking about a colleague, and sometimes he forgets he's talking in front of little sponges." (I suspect dad would be more entertained than made apologetic by this story, hence mom's exasperation.) Another one: "I went to Zellers and I bought a present for my father for Father's Day and it was a video of Jesus Christ Superstar, and I got upset when they put Jesus on the wooden cross, so we watched The Little Tugboat instead." I can see it. Mom, Dad, and children gathered around to absorb the profundities of... The Little Tugboat. From such innocent disclosures do I get a sense of the family politics and power balances of each household!

Saturday, June 24, 2006


For three days running, someone has come here by Googling "It's Not All Mary Poppins blog". It's nice that I have a consistent reader, but, really, I think it would be simpler just to bookmark the page...

Friday, June 23, 2006

So Who's Who? Take a Guess!

Me: Where is Boy 1? Boy 2: He's sleeping on the kitchen floor. Me: He IS? [looking into kitchen] Um, no he's not. Boy 1: Here I am! Boy 2: Are you awake? Boy 1: Well, what do you think? I have my eyes open and I'm standing right here. Boy 2: I think you're sleeping.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

He'd Better be Sick, is all I'm sayin'

Have you ever despised someone you've never met? I had an interview Monday night. Although I had made it clear that I prefer that the first interview occur without the child in attendance, mom brought the child.* A child's presence at an interview is not generally so much of an issue if both parents are present, so that when one is tending to the child, the other can chat with me, but she came alone. She has a husband, but no mention was made of him. During the interview, it came out that the child has serious sleep issues. Now, I am, as you all know, firmly of the opinion that children need their sleep. I also believe that by far the majority of sleep problems are completely solve-able. As she described her child's sleep patterns and the steps she has taken to resolve them, however, I became more and more convinced that this child has a genuine sleep disorder. Even if it's a learned behaviour, it is now severe enough that the family would do well to seek out a sleep disorder clinic. Of course I said as much, in an entirely supportive way. Mom confessed to being completely exhausted. She is awake with the child almost every night, from about 1 a.m. to about 4 a.m., and then up for the day at six. Even if she goes to bed when her child does, at 8 p.m., she is getting, at best, seven hours of broken sleep, which is not as restorative as seven hours of solid sleep, and may well be an hour or so LESS sleep every night than she needs. "This will change when you go back to work, though?" I suggest. "You and dad will take alternate nights, spell each other off?" "Oh, you misunderstand," she says. "I've been back at work for a year." Okay. So I can think of excuses for him. Maybe she's one of these controlling, over-protective types. Maybe he has some sort of health problem. Nope. That's all I can think of. She either doesn't let him (I don't think it's the case, but it's possible), or he's too sick. If it's not one of those, then he's just an incredibly selfish jerk. Bah. *My reasons for not having the child present are primarily two: when the child comes, a part of the interview occurs is of necessity taken up with tending to the child. Depending on the age, this can be more or less distracting; secondly, it is more efficient to bring the child to meet the caregiver only once you have narrowed it down - less stressful for the parents, less stressful for the child.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


It was 29*, with a humidex of 39 yesterday. Steeeenkin' hot. Seems, however, that our wee Nigel prefers the heat, for when today's temperatures turned out to be a more moderate 19, humidex 24, he had to dig this baby out at home. Fleece, anyone?
*All temperatures in Celcius. Here's a conversion calculator.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

My Fall from Grace

"Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything Better than you."
"What a good runner you are, Zach!" I call to the boy leading the pack. "I'm a good runner, too," says the boy walking at my elbow. "Boy, you sure love your beans, George," I smile at the boy who's asking for seconds. "I like beans, too," says the boy who has managed to down two and a half so far. "I love to see you boys playing together so nicely." "I play together nicely. I played together the nicest." "Good job picking up all those puzzle pieces, Darcy and George! You sure worked hard." "I can clean up, too," says the boy from the middle of a demolition of blocks. "What a nice picture you drew, Arthur. So many colours!" "Yeah. Mine gots more colours than Zach's." "You each pick a book, and we'll read them all." "Read mine first." And on and on and on. All day long. And each time, I respond politely, sometimes telling him that I was speaking to another child, or explaining that I meant all the children, or telling him that right now, it's so-and-so's turn to hear something nice. And sometimes I simply opt not to hear him. But my heart, she is weary. At snack time in the afternoon, we are having oranges. Now, I don't much enjoy peeling oranges, and for snack, I'll peel four or five of the wretched things. These ones peel readily enough, in fact, but then one of them just won't pull apart neatly into segments. The damned things keep tearing in the middle, and my fingers become sticky with juice. Sensitive George notices my face. "What's the matter, Mary?" What a sweetie. I make a dramatically disgusted face at the orange for his entertainment. We share a grin. "Some come apart more easily than others, and this one just doesn't want to come apart." "I can peel them apart easily," says Arthur. Gah! "You're the child who can't pull up his own socks, Arthur. Give me a break." Bad caregiver. Bad, bad, bad, bad caregiver...

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Rather Shitty Situation

The sweet little birdies nesting in our porch? The birdies whose cheeping greets the dawn, whose wee fluffy babies' pink-puffy-heart cheeping fills the early morning air? The mommy and daddy birds whose industrious nurturing entertains and educates the tots on a daily basis? Those birds? They have developed diarrhoea. Yes. Birdie trots. Shit on wings. I step out my front door first thing in the morning, and the shittage - it's astonishing. The chair (metal, thank God) is spattered with white and black. The rail behind said chair is encrusted with a solid layer, and the porch deck? The porch deck has been strafed. White splats, each with its lumpen black nucleus, dot the entire porch. Something has to be done. Back into the house, haul out a rarely-used bucket. While it fills with steaming hot soapy water, dig out the rubber gloves and cleaning rags. Which will be turfed immediately after use. This is no time for environmentally friendly reusing, nuh-uh, but paper towels sure won't be up to this job. Pick up the bucket and swing it out of the sink, only to be reminded why this particular vessel has been unused for so long. It'd be that inch-wide hole in the bottom. Yes. The tots scamper into the kitchen at my cry of dismay. "Why is your dress all wet, Mary?" Quick empty foundering bucket into the sink. Mop floor. Go upstairs. Change. Return to kitchen with new, hole-free bucket (aka the plastic garbage bin from the bathroom). Out we all go to the porch, tots, bucket, rags, rubber gloves, and cordless phone. "I'm going to clean this bird poop up, guys. You play on that side, all right?" (This is a treat. My neighbours have to put up with a lot without surrendering their territory to the marauding tots, so I've taught the children that they're never to go onto the other side. No problem keeping them there, then - forbidden fruit, and all that.) Don the rubber gloves (which will also be turfed immediately after this vile task is over), commence to scrub. As my avian friends chirrup happily overhead. While I'm scrubbing, Darcy arrives in his dad's bike trailer. "Hey, Darcy!" George's clear, high voice carries effortlessly across the street. "Hey, Darcy! Wanna come watch Mary clean up the bird poop?" Darcy doesn't hear over dad's snort. "WHAT?" "WANNA COME WATCH MARY CLEAN UP THE BIRD POOP?" This he hears. So do a couple of neighbours. Heads pop around porch railings. Ho, ho, ho. This is even better than the burning taco incident. "Bird poop??? OH, YEAH!!!" Do I know how to entertain the tots, or what? A few minutes later, the task is complete. I throw now filthy water into the garden, toss rags and gloves into the bucket, herd the tots into the house, and reach for the cordless phone. Which has a huge dollop of bird shit right on the earpiece. Those sweet wee puffs of fluff just better get some feathers and flight lessons in pretty damned quick, because my clock, she's ticking... Lucky for them that I am fundamentally incapable of harming a baby of any description. So far.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Journeying out of the Whinge Fringe

"Mooooommmmy! I can't get my shooooooes onnnn! Moooooommmmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee??? Daaaadeeeee! Mommy won't heeeelp meeeeeee...." Whining. Bane of parents everywhere. Some kids, happy little sunshines that they are, never whine. Others seem to have "whine" as their default setting, launching into a prolongued bout at the smallest provocation. Most kids fall between, happy sorts for the most part, with only occasional forays into the whinge fringe. No matter how often it happens, it's annoying. They persist, of course, because it works. Eventually parents crack under the pressure, the Chinese water torture drip, drip, drip of their child's voice, curling and curdling through the air, through their ears, boring into their frazzled brains. "Oh, all RIGHT!" we snap. "All RIGHT. Just stop that whining!" We've all done it, and we all know it's a bad idea. Problem is, how do you deal with this? (Even that old parental standby, duct tape, won't work for this, because any whiner worth their salt can manage it with their mouth shut.*) That child does need help with the shoes, after all, so in the end, you're rewarding the whine, right? What to do? A two-pronged approach is most effective. There's the active and the passive approaches, both of which are used at different times. The passive approach: ignore it. I know, I know, it's like ignoring the whine of a mosquito as you try to fall asleep, like ignoring the fuzz of a radio tuned just slightly off the station. It's hard to tune out. However, ignoring it is a valid and, in time, effective tactic. But to ignore it, you have to truly ignore it. One of my former clients, little Colin, was a default whiner. Everything that came out of that boy's mouth was a high and grating nasal whinge, the kind to set your teeth right on edge. His well-meaning dad would respond to everything Colin whined, in a cheerful, polite, and upbeat voice. Dad was modelling great non-whine behaviour, but he was not, as he thought he was, "ignoring" the whining. He was responding as if his son wasn't whining; he was not ignoring it at all. Ignoring means to pretend you can't hear it. At all. So that's the passive approach. The active approach is to teach them. I don't know how a child discovers the whine, but just because they do it doesn't mean they know what it's called. They may not understand when they are doing it. They need to be taught. So first: Identify the whine. This stage takes 1 - 3 days, usually. "Daaaadeeee? My truck is stuuuuuck." "That was a whine, son. When you said 'daaaaadeeee', you were whining. Now I'm going to say it in a happy voice: [insert calm and cheerful rendition of child's exact words]. I like the happy voice much better. I don't like to listen to that icky whiney voice." A little drama works well here. When you whine, put on the whiney face, the whiney body, the whiney voice. When you use your happy voice, you sit up straighter, you smile a huge warm smile, you are happy!! Perky, even! Which often makes the kid laugh - a good thing! Spend a day or two labelling the whine whenever it occurs. Repeat the whine, just as they said it, so they can hear it. Label that as a "whiney voice". Then repeat the same phrase in upbeat tones. Label that a "happy voice" (or a "calm voice", or something else, just be consistent in the term you use). All you're doing yet is identifying the phenomena and giving them the vocabulary. When you think your child understands the concept, move on to stage two. Step Two: Label the whine and have them repeat the phrase in happy voice. "Mooommmeeee. I can't find my booooook." "That was a whiney voice, sweetie. Say it in your happy voice, please." If they look at you blankly, repeat the phrase in a happy voice, and ask them to repeat it like that. They don't have to nail it the first time, but if they make an effort to say it without the whine, that will do. This stage will probably last a week or so, as the child gains in the ability to state his/her problem calmly, without the whine, and, increasingly, without your prior modelling. When the child can usually say it without whining, and without your modelling, go on to stage three. Let me clarify: A child is entitled to their feelings! I am not saying they are not allowed to be sad or angry. Of course they can! They are entitled to their feeling - but they can (and should be expected to) moderate its expression. They can be upset without whining. They can be angry without hitting. They can be frustrated without throwing things. If the whine is caused by an emotion, get them to state the emotion. "Nooooo, it's miiiiiine!" can be a firm, "No. That's mine!" If they are angry, they can say it without the whine. "I don't LIKE that!" [An aside: the "use your happy voice" instruction cannot be used on a child in the midst of a tantrum. To demand that a child in the storm of tantrum rage speak in happy tones is simply too much to ask. Tantrums require a different approach, which I've covered here, here, and here.] Step Three: Refuse to hear the whine. "He hiiiit meeeee!" (Oh, this is a tough one! I picked it on purpose!! Don't you just want to leap right in and deal with the aggression? If it's an either-or, then, yes, deal with the aggression and not the whining. But usually it's not either-or. Usually you can do both. (Thinking analytically while under pressure - a huge parental skill.)) "I'm sorry, did you say something? All I heard was a weenyteeny whiney noise!" I often say this with the hint of a smile. They know I'm teasing, but they also know I mean it. If that's too subtle, I'll follow up with "Maybe if you said it again in a calm voice, I might hear it." Remember, by this time the retraining has been going on for about two weeks. They know what you mean. And in this particular instance, the child is well motivated to get you to HEAR him - he wants justice! By the end of three weeks or so, the incidence of whining should be greatly reduced. For some children, it may be entirely gone. For others, when it does occur, you should be able to get a them to use their calm voice with a simple, calm reminder: "Pardon? Did you say something?" (and wait for the calm repeat) "Was that a whine I just heard?" "Happy voice, please." When this is well-established, and the child is fully capable of reframing his/her words in calm tones, I'll even tease a bit. "Oh! There's that mosquito again! I thought maybe it was Suzie talking, but no, Suzie doesn't make that teeny mosquito voice any more. It must be a mosquito. Where is it? Where is that mosquito? I need to squash it!" By which time the kid is usually dancing around my feet laughing. "No! It was ME! I wanted..." and it comes out happy. (You don't tease before they understand the vocabulary and expectations, though, because that would just confuse and humiliate them. It has to be a shared joke.) There you go. A month to whine-free living. It's yours!

*I don't really need to explain that I'm kidding here, do I? Just in case: duct tape is NOT an appropriate parenting tool. Please do not duct tape your children. Ever. No matter what the provocation. Thank you. **Like the shirt? The picture is a link to the site where I found it.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Data Collection

Hello! I was just noticing that I've picked up a rash bunch of new commenters. ("Rash" makes you sound like an outbreak of hives. No! I'm thrilled to see your faces and fruity drinks in the comment boxes.) Welcome to Mary's place! I'm curious: if you've started commenting in the past couple of weeks, where did you come from? How did you end up here? Have you been lurking for a while, or did you comment the first visit? Tell all!!!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Fart Boy

I'm learning my way around my little Quirky Boy, Sam. Sam, who is nine, comes for a couple of hours a day, after school. Those who have cause to know about this stuff suspect Sam has Asperger's. He has no official diagnosis, however, and for the most part, he's doing just fine without one! Whatever his diagnosis, he is one quirky kid. Sam has a driving need to sort, order, and categorize. He likes to know the parameters. Every interaction is cause for a barrage of questions. Sam is a nice boy, well-meaning and smart as can be, but he can be intense. A couple of hours a day in question-boy's presence give me an intense respect for his parents and teachers. A couple of weeks ago, while sitting at the table eating his snack, Sam emitted a sharp and tidy little fart. "BRAP." For which he immediately apologized, quite obviously embarrassed. I assured him that it was all right. Everyone farts now and then. Not to worry. Since that day, Sam has farted a minimum of eight or ten times every single afternoon. I had thus far opted to ignore it - this is, after all, the socially approved way of dealing with someone else's unsolicited and uncontrolled bodily outbursts. (With one obvious exception, I know. He's much too young for that. Minds out of the gutter, please.) Today I was sitting beside him on the bench. The tots are all having a long nap after their busy morning, and Sam is doing his homework as I type. He shifts onto one cheek, strains a little, and fires a tight fart right at me. All right. I've about had enough of this. "Sam." He looks up, expectant. He knows what the stimulus was; he's curious as to the response. "Ever since I said that you didn't need to apologize for farting, you have farted ten times a day. Now, you never did that before, so I know you don't have to do it now. This is getting silly." "Okay." Two minutes later, another fart. A little more discreet, and on the side away from me. "Sam." "I didn't do it towards you this time." He's not defiant, just informing me. "That's right, you didn't. I still think you don't need to do all this farting, though." "How about if I go into another room? I could go into the kitchen." Again, not defiant, just sorting out the parameters. "Good idea. Except I want you to go out on the front porch." Two minutes later, Sam is standing on the porch. Two minutes after that, he toots on the bench again. What has this boy been eating? "Sam. Outside. I mean it." This is defiance, and I am a little stern. "I think that's a little silly, you know." Very polite. He's telling me what he thinks, but he also completely understands he chose to defy a direct instruction. I am unmoved and unmoving. "I agree. It is a little silly. So is all this farting. Next time, out you go." (Inside, you understand, I am finding this rather entertaining. I have learned that I dare not show the smallest glimmer of a grin, though, or Sam will not understand that I am serious. It could be that he takes advantage of my sense of humour; it could be that stern directives given with a smile mix the message and confuse the boy. Whatever the cause, I Even though all this serious discussion of fart-rules is kind of funny.) Heavy sigh. "All right." It's been ten minutes, and there's been neither fart nor quick trip to the porch. Are we all sorted yet? We'll just have to see...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Like Father, Like Daughter (Except I thought the Daughter was the Two-Year-Old)

My parents are arriving at the end of the day. TallDarkDad parks his station wagon on my side of the street - which, I might add, he shouldn't do. There is no parking on my side. Dad in his I Have-Money-to-Burn-on-Gas SUV pulls up on the other side. Quiet Mom arrives with her stroller. I chat with Quiet Mom while TallDarkDad and SUV Dad load their offspring into their cars. I notice that a neighbour is stopped in the street, unable to pass between illegally parked TallDarkDad and the door of Honkin'Big SUV, which is opened on the street side. Now, by rights Illegally Parked Dad should move, but as he's on the sidewalk side of the car, my neighbour would have to wait till he finished with the carseat. SUV dad, meantime, will only have to shut his side door for a sec. I call across to SUV dad, indicating the waiting car. He nods, the neighbour releases brake - and he goes back to putting his child into the car! Neighbour brakes, hardish. I am a little astonished by the rudeness. All that was required was for him to swing the door shut for the .62 seconds required for her to pass. "That's my neighbour, you know!" I call. With a smile, but also with just a teeny bit of an edge in my voice. He looks up and shrugs. "I was here first." Gee. Toddler logic in an "adult" mind. He'll go far. Any way I can put a 6'3" man in a time out? He has SO earned it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sweet Relief

The bathroom doorknob is slimy. The inside bathroom doorknob is slimy. This is not good. This is so very not good. I stare at my hand in dismay. The stuff is translucent. If it has a colour at all, it's whitish. (NO, it's not that. Don't be ridiculous. They're none of them old enough.) Who was in the bathroom last? I see no drips on the floor, no smears on the sink, toilet, or tub. More hand-staring. I rub thumb and forefinger together. It's slick, it's not sticky. No idea. Now, I deal with slime of any number of descriptions every day in my job, and I am not squeamish. However, snot is snot is snot. Pee is pee. Barf is barf. Even liquid poop is just that. When you know what it is, you can deal with reality, no matter how redolent. And, of course, I never touch it. Not without a cloth, or gloves, betwixt me and it. Mystery slime, when you weren't expecting it, all over the bare skin of your hand, is quite different. Even though it's almost certain to be one of the above, it's different. Move my hand gingerly up to my face. I want to smell it, but God help me if it accidentally touches my lip. It smells... it not much, really. I bring it gingerly a little closer. It smells...nice. It smells nice! It smells like... Soap. Liquid soap from the pump dispenser. I think I'll just go sit down now.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Things I Hear...

George, Darcy, and Arthur walk by with bulging t-shirts, various stuffed toys stuffed up their fronts. George: My baby's going to pop on on Thursday! Darcy: Mine will pop out today! Arthur: Mine, too. George: But first I have to go to the hospital, so they can get it out. Arthur: Mine, too. Darcy: My baby will pop out at home. George: You can't have a baby at your house! Only at the hospital! Darcy: Yes, you can. My Auntie Katie's baby came out at home. Inna bafroom. George: Was the doctor in the bathroom, too? Darcy: No, just my Uncle Frank. !!!

Monday, June 12, 2006

A Trip to the Museum, and Some Socio-Cultural Non-Education

Last Wednesday, the children went to the Museum of Nature with Haley. We all headed down there on the bus together, then I departed for Errands to Run. (Errands! Without toddlers in tow! How exciting!! The bank, the post office, the hardware store await! Woo-hoo! And then a quiet coffee. Imagine the bliss.) By all accounts, they had a great time. As is often the case with the tots, the parts most entertaining for the adult in charge were not the educational focal points of the trip. The children had enjoyed their trip - and they were given BUTTONS!! With this engineer dino guy on them!!! They had left the museum, and crossed the street when Darcy announced his need to pee. What else can they do? Back they go. Back into the museum, up the steps, into the bathroom. Everyone into the large wheelchair-accessible stall. Darcy does his bit, but, now that we're in here, eveyone may as well have a turn, or you know what'll happen, don't you? They'll all be across the street and the next one will have to PEE, NOW!! As George pees, Zach wonders what that thing on the wall is. "That's a thing for grown-up women," Haley explains, factually if uninformatively. "Yadies?" - Zach. "Just for grown-ups?" - Darcy. "Yes. Just for grown-up ladies." Arthur, of course, wants to know how it works. "Well, you put your money in here, and turn this knob." More non-information disguised as a straight answer. It makes a mother proud, truly it does. You realize this is not squeamishness on either of our parts, only the belief that this stuff should generally come from the parents when possible. Also a disinclination to start running sex ed. classes for toddlers in the museum toilets. We have a bus to catch. Besides, Arthur is perfectly satisfied with this answer. Turning a knob is more than adequate compensation for such coinage as is required. He has no trouble with this. Who wouldn't pay to turn a knob? Except..."It's only just for ladies?" Arthur's voice is tinged with a mixture of incredulity and disapproval. Why are the men are being ripped off? Completely unjust discrimination. (I know more than a few women who might agree with him on this, as it happens.) But that's okay. Next trip to a public washroom, the daddies can explain all about the condom-dispensers! See how helpful outings are for the social education of one's children?? My only regret is I'm unlikely to be there when it happens. George, meantime, is facing the bowl, his back to the focus of interest. "What's only for grown-up ladies?" He turns to look - and a glistening arc turns with him. "ACK! George! Don't turn around! Get that pee in the toilet." Haley's agitated directions bounce off the tiled walls. Further production lands in the bowl. Phew. Mission accomplished, the troop out. Past the security guard stationed at the entrance to the washroom, a security guard who meets Haley's eye with an amused grin, a security guard who has quite obviously, heard every word. Tots are such fun!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

We Aim to Please

The umbrella stroller has been sitting open on the front porch for the past couple of days, instead of being folded up as usual. Predictably, Elegant Cat discovered it, and now it's a kitty lounge chair. "You wanted something?"

Friday, June 09, 2006

Morning, Already?

Normally I'm a morning person. You may have noticed the time stamps on my posts are generally early. It's when I do my best thinking. But some mornings? Some, I'm just not quite there. This morning I get up, pull on a skirt and shirt. Button the shirt, starting, as is my habit, in the middle. (Women readers of a certain upper voluptuity will likely recognize this manoeuvre: you start at the breasts so the rest of the shirt falls properly.) Then down to the bottom, then the button or two above the middle where I started. It may seem unnecessarily complicated to you, but I've done it this way for about three decades (like, since I got breasts), and it works just fine. Until today. "Hey, mum," says Emma from across the breakfast table, as Arthur, first child to arrive, plays at our feet. "You're flashing the planet." I look down. Seems, in my atypical morning muddle-headedness, I got distracted partway through the proceedings. (Distraction during the rest of the day, well, given that I work with a half-dozen toddlers, could it be otherwise?) I'm buttoned from the middle down, but not from there up, resulting in a generous display of flesh and an indiscreet, though not unappealing, sweep of rose and chocolate lace. Which would account for Arthur's dad's odd behaviour at the door this morning...

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Mr. Liberality

The children surround the table, each with a lump of yellow playdough. "I'may-en pagutti, I'may-en pagutti." Arthur has the garlic press. Multiple strands of yellow playdough 'spaghetti' appear as he squeezes. "I'may-en pagutti, I'may-en pagutti." George looks at his spaghetti, comments positively. The others join in with talk about their creations. "I'may-en pagutti, I'may-en pagutti." Zach pokes the spaghetti with his finger. He giggles; Arthur grins. "I'may-en pagutti, I'may-en pagutti." Darcy looks up from his playdough, a steadily increasing pile of tiny yellow playdough nubbins under his plastic knife. "Arthur, you only need to say that once. I heard you." "Yes, but I'm tellin' Mary." "And she heard you, too." "And I'm tellin' Mia, and I'm tellin' Zach, and I'm tellin'..." Oooooh! No need to share, we get one sentence apiece. He's not repeating himself, merely making sure everyone gets their fair share. Such a generous boy.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Learning. Or not.

That last post down there? All play is learning? Overheard this morning. Darcy and Arthur are playing, have been playing, in the kitchen for half an hour. Happy little voices murmur. Well, okay, it's ARTHUR and Darcy. One little voice murmurs, the other bludgeons. But they're both happy. Happy together. For half an hour. Play, play, play, play, play. Then this: "Are we playin' school?" "No, we're playin' turtles." "Oh." So maybe it's not all learning. At any rate, what two kids in the same game are learning is anyone's guess. Which can be said of two kids in a classroom, or two adults in a meeting, come to that...

p.s. to Q: or two adults in a church, hey, sweetie?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Learning's a Game

George has brought a fire safety book from home. He and Arthur sit side by side on the couch and "read" it. "When you notice the fire, you have to yell out loud and wake up the rest of your family." George declares, pointing to the picture before turning the page. "Then you gots to get out. You don't worry about grabbing stuff, you just gets all the people out. You touch the door with the back of your hand before you open it, because if it's hot, you gots to find a different way to go because there's a fire on the other side." (Not bad for four!) "Let's play that game today!" Arthur bounces in the seat beside George. "Yeah!" The boys grab the fire hats and leap into their fire trucks, aka shopping bins, and the game begins. That's real learning, you know. It's never "just" play with small children. They may get the facts from an abstract source, but they are not learned, they do not become real, until they are played with. And how different is that from the way adults learn, anyway?

Monday, June 05, 2006


Not too long ago, someone asked me about my turnover. It seemed that I had a lot of children coming and going. Well, right now it seems I do! Normally, children stay for three years: from their entry to daycare at a year, to the fall they start junior kindergarten, at age three-four. I've had a couple of kids skip JK and stay with me till junior kindergarten, so happy were their parents with my services. Last summer, when a space came empty, I filled it with a three-year-old, a highly unusual occurrence, given that kids this age have generally been happily ensconced in daycare for a couple of years already. Taking on that three-year-old in addition to the two three-year-olds I already had, meant I'd have a three-kid turnover this fall. That's the nature of the business, sometimes. Being well-prepared, I filled those three spaces: Mia would take one by coming on full-time instead of the occasional day here and there; and interviews over the past couple of months have given me Timmy, to whom you've all been introduced, and Malaika, whom you have yet to meet. So I'm good for the fall, right? My enrollment was Mia, three in the fall; Zach, three and a half by then; Nigel (upgraded from "baby"), 21 months, and Timmy and Malaika, both a year old. Except. Mia's parents bailed, as you know. Two days later, Zach's parents told me that they have arranged a combination of part-time and at-home work so they can be with him before he heads off to school in a year. I can't fault that thinking! Zach is a lucky boy! But does it put me in a bind? Yup. While I though I was full, I turned away a couple of interviews. Now we're awfully close to the fall, as far as these things go, and I cannot survive on the income from three children. It's worse than that, really: because they give a month's deposit on signing which is applied to the last month of care, my income in August will be from two children only, even though I will have four in care. *Sigh*. (Update: since writing that paragraph, I got a call from someone who wants to send their child for July and August. A step in the right direction.) What it all boils down to is that when all those spaces are filled, I will have Nigel, at 21 months, and, most likely, FOUR one-year-olds. Four. I've done it before, I can do it now, but it's a LOT OF WORK. The lifting, the tending, the tears, the diapers. In three months or so, when we've all gelled as a unit, they will be a lovely little playgroup for each other, but those first three months? Phew... You may not be hearing from me quite so much. Or you may be hearing from me even more - HELP! Wish me luck!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Ms. Dismissive

The children and I have been to the bank, and to reward them (and me!) for the boredom endured, we are now having a treat - blueberry scones for the kids and a raspberry smoothie for me - on a lovely shaded patio at the corner of a couple of busy streets. Lots to see, lots to point out, lots of smiling people passing by. I am asked, "Are they all yours?" at least six times. This is because I have them in two sets of matching hats. Were the people to consider the likely ages of the bearers of the hats, they'd realise the lunacy of the question. Six children under the age of four, max, are not likely to be from the same womb. Though my kids and I have entertained ourselves on more than one occasion imagining how it might be. "George and Darcy could be 4-year-old twins, mom." Emma will venture. "You forgot Harry," her brother corrects. "Yeah, with Harry, that makes triplets. So, three-year-old triplets." "Zach and Mia can be two-and-a-half year old twins." Adam suggests. "Nigel is 18 months, and baby Timmy is 8 month. There! It's possible!" Possible, perhaps, but I can't see myself smiling nearly so much as I do. I'd be going around in a zomboid haze, I'm quite sure. One woman, who had seen us in the bank, happens along. "Aren't you so cute, and so well-behaved!" I preen a little internally. Their cute factor has nothing to do with me, but their behaviour? Ha! That gives me preening rights. "Are they all yours?" she continues. "Not a one!" I grin. "Oh, so you're just the caregiver?" Yeah. Well. What do you say to that? "So you're just a doctor?" "Just a teacher?" "Just an insensitive clod?" Smile and nod, smile and nod, and happily, having completed her mission of...what? what did she think she had just accomplished?...she leaves. Oh, well. Some people are like that. It's a gorgeous day, I'm sitting on a patio with a batch of perfect children, the sun is shining. I can let it go. I take a deep breath, and, in the words of Opus, "PHBHBHBHBT!" I can let it go. I didn't say I had to be ladylike about it.

Friday, June 02, 2006

How We Do It (part one?)

I'm told this so often I don't really even hear it any more. "I don't know how you do it!" I'm not quite sure what "it" is, exactly, and many times, I suspect that I am not in fact doing the "it" the person thinks I am. I think sometimes people believe that the good behaviour they see with me is magical. Because everyone knows that kids behave better for other people than their parents, right? (No, I don't know that. You may think you have seen it, but as a caregiver, I can usually see any number of very clear reasons why this may be happening. It is not unavoidable, it is certainly not just the nature of things.) My days sometimes have some screaming in them, yes, they do. My days often have tears in them. Rarely mine, but that's been known to happen. (Really.) My days rarely have tantrums, but they do have temper. (Again, not generally mine, but it's been known to happen. I am human.) We have power struggles, of course we do! I'm working with 2-year-olds. We have power struggles, Here's a good example of a caregiver having a struggle. In this case, she's bravely changing her patterns for something healthier, so she's having to re-train several toddlers, who have been used to something different, in the same behaviour at one time. Now that's courage. Just so you know that all that sweetness you see when a caregiver goes by with her wee charges is not accomplished without some sweat!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Stick with Your Goals...

We play soccer!! The skies are forbidding but it's not actually raining, so we grab a kid-size nerf soccer ball and head to the small field at the base of our street. Further venturing under such lowering skies is not wise, but surely we can burn off some of their copious energy a block from home. The grass is ankle high (mid-calf for them) and wet, but the ball bounces just the same. Off they go! (All except Arthur. Call it perverse if you will (I know I certainly do) but the boy who never walks if he can run-like-an-elephant-in-army-boots in the house will not run outside.) We set up some goalposts: the stroller at one end and my nice sturdy umbrella stabbed into the soft earth at the other. I am the goalie. This is brilliant strategy. As goalie, I don't have to run like a mad thing. They're here to burn excess energy. Me, I'm forty-something, I'm more into conserving energy. Secondly, it's a way of keeping control of five little bodies, all hurtling in different directions at differing speeds. If I'm the goalie, they have to keep circling me. They keep running toward me, and I don't even have to call. Ha! There is some preliminary discussion of this, though, before the boys understand the parameters. "You can be the goalie, Darcy!" George declares. "I don't want to be the goalie!" "Why not?" "I want to run!" Good man. That's the spirit. Run like the wind, little man, run like the wind. "Me, too!" George declares. "I want to run!" Arthur, however, hears something in that which appeals. "I will be the goalie!" "No, love, I am the goalie. You go on out there and chase that ball." I boot it several metres down the field. Arthur sighs and trots in the wake of the other boys, already well after the ball. He lumbers a bit behind them for a minute or so, and then he's back at my elbow, talking, talking, talking. "Arthur. I'm the goalie. You're supposed to be chasing the ball." The ball bounces against Arthur's foot, then bounces away. "Oh! I got the ball!" He looks up with delight, smiling benignly at the ball nestled in the grass a foot from his toe. Darcy thunders up and kicks the ball toward the goal. I boot it back down the field. What we're really playing is a slightly more complicated version of "fetch", but the boys don't need to know this. "Hey! You tooked my ball!" Arthur is offended. "I didn't take it, sweetie. I'm the goalie. I have to kick it away from the goal. That's my job. You can chase after it and try to kick it into the goal, too, just like Darcy and George and Zach. Away you go." He trots off, and, to his credit, manages to join the scrimmage (aka seething mass of three-year-olds), even getting his foot on the ball once or twice. Then he loses steam, follows the ball half-heartedly at some distance for a while, before returning once more. "Mary, can I be the--" "No, Arthur, I've told you already. I'm the goalie." "No, I don't want to be the goalie. Can I be the goalpost?"