It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Parenting Tip: Health and Hygiene

Public Service Notice: Learned from a fellow kindergarten teacher years ago while working for the Waterloo District Board of Education. (Thank you, Lois!)

If children cover their coughs and sneezes with their elbow rather than their hand, far fewer coughs and colds get passed around. Elbows are much less likely to come into contact with toys, doorknobs, and other children than are hands, and are just as easy to wash.

It made a huge difference in my classroom; I teach it to all my daycare tots – and now you know, too!

June 25, 2005 Posted by | daycare, eeewww, parenting | 5 Comments

You Can Pick Your Nose…

You know that saying, popular amongst teens: “You can pick your nose, you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose”?

It’s not true, you know.

George approaches me. “Mary, I need a kleenex. I gots a booger on my finger.”

So he does. Thick, green, good consistency, a little crusty on one side, it sits solidly atop his pointer finger.

“Yuk, George.” Probably a little rattled at having this thing waved too close to my own nose, I ask what would appear to be a completely foolish question as I hand him the kleenex. “Where did you get that thing?”

“Baby Alice.”

June 24, 2005 Posted by | eeewww, George | 8 Comments

Lost in Translation

Arthur:    Wha’ these crackers cold?
Mary:     Cold? Are they cold, Arthur?
Arthur:    No, wha’ they cooolld?” (Enunciating carefully for the thick one.)
Mary:     I don’t think they are cold, just normal.
Arthur:    No, not cold, cold!! Wha’s the name of these?
Mary:     Oh. They’re called Saltines, my dear. Just normal crackers.
Arthur:    And what are they going to turn into?

June 24, 2005 Posted by | Arthur, the things they say! | 2 Comments

The Eye Has It

Poor Thomas! I have no idea how he’s managed it, but thus far, knock wood, he does not have a black eye.

A howl of protest draws me to Thomas and George, who had, till that moment, been happily playing with a large exercise ball. (You know the type: also called “therapy balls”, designed for adults to torture themselves upon.) Made of some sturdy vinyl/rubber stuff, bouncy, and brilliant red, it’s attractive and lots of fun. For them, at any rate. It comes a little past my knee – pretty much the height of most of the children in my home. However, the game seems to have devolved a bit. Thomas is trotting down the hall exuding indignation. “George took the ball from me and poked me inna eye!”

My concern is first for his eye, and only secondarily with the territorial dispute. His eyelid is a bit red, showing signs of having been properly poked, indeed. “What did he poke you with, Thomas?”

“The ball.”

An hour later, it’s a wail of genuine distress. Thomas very rarely actually cries. He’ll howl, fuss, and foment like none other, but real tears of anguish or pain? Hardly ever. He’s a resilient little dude. His tears are always genuine. His eye is quite red, above and below, and he’s almost unable to open it. No matter how he tries, it keeps twitching involuntarily shut. Ow,ow,ow. Oh, dear, oh dear. As I apply ice, we debrief.

“What happened, love?”
“George kicked me inna eye!” *

Another howl, this one of outrage.

“Goodness, you’re having a rough day, Thomas! What happened this time?”
“Arthur poked me inna eye – wiv a book!”

It’s nap time now, and barring a sudden bout of sleepwalking, I think Thomas’s eye is safe for the moment. The boy is on some kind of a roll, though, and I will count myself very lucky if he manages gets out my front door this afternoon without a black eye!

* In defense of poor George, who is a largely peaceable little man, I hasten to explain that this happened while they were rough-housing, head to toe, on the couch. I am quite sure it was inadvertent.

June 24, 2005 Posted by | random and odd, Thomas | Leave a comment

Work with Me Here

Arthur has a wheelbarrow, brought from home, which has been at our place for a few days now. It’s a popular toy, probably by virtue of its novelty. At the moment Arthur has it, but George comes and tries to pull it from his hands. It’s not as rude as it sounds, rather a matter of poor co-ordination of words and action: George asks for it while he reaches for it instead of before. Arthur, not surprisingly, resists this importunity.

I remove George’s hand from the wheelbarrow, and commence to facilitate negotiations. Arthur is not averse to sharing, merely to being presumed upon, and so it only takes a moment before he decides that George may have a turn. George stands and watches while this occurs. Now it’s George’s turn to observe the social niceties:

“There, George! Arthur says you may play with his wheelbarrow now. What do you say to Arthur?”

“I want to play ball with Darcy.”

June 23, 2005 Posted by | Arthur, George, manners | 4 Comments

Logic Alert

Me: Thomas, we don’t stand on the couch. You may sit on it, or you may lie on it, but please keep those feet off the couch. Understand?

Thomas: But that ball is red!

June 23, 2005 Posted by | quirks and quirkiness, random and odd, the things they say! | 8 Comments

PBJ, Okay!

Thomas requested peanut butter sandwiches for lunch.

A pretty mundane, kid-friendly, unexceptional request, right? Ha! If you think that, you haven’t lived in urban Canada recently. I don’t know what it’s like in other places, but around here, peanut butter is next thing to a toxic substance.

Peanut butter has moved from a simple, inexpensive, and nourishing food for children to a probable poison, to be treated with utmost caution. If I were to feed these children peanut butter and then take them to the Tot’s Time at the library, no matter how thoroughly I washed their hands and faces, an Earnest Mommy who smelled it on their breath would be appalled at my willingness to put other children in such clear and immanent jeopardy. (People honestly believe that smelling peanuts on someone else’s breath can cause a deadly reaction in allergic people. Urban myth, according to allergy specialists at CHEO, our local and highly-regarded Children’s Hospital.)

I do take it seriously when needful. I’ve had at least one allergic, or potentially allergic child in care at any point over the last seven years, and so it has been seven years since I have been able to serve peanut butter to the tots. Seven years!

Suddenly, it seems, there are peanut-allergic kids everywhere; nuts and nut products are banned from all the local elementary schools; everyone knows someone who carries an epipen. (An automatic injector filled with epinephren, an adrenaline derivative, I think, to be used in case of serious allergic reactions.) At one point, four of the five children in my care had epipens: three for peanut butter, and one for beestings. In truth, despite all the hullaballoo about peanut allergies, the beesting one worried me more. Peanut butter sandwiches don’t fly.

George’s mother has a strong peanut allergy, and so had asked that I not give any to him until he’d been tested. He was tested a couple of weeks ago, and was declared a peanut-safe zone.

So, today, when Thomas asked for peanut butter sandwiches, I decided we’d take a walk on the wild side. May not seem like much to you, but me? A restriction has been eliminated. Daring daredevil that I am, defier of social conventions, risk-taker par excellence, we’re having peanut butter sandwiches for lunch!

June 23, 2005 Posted by | food | 3 Comments

Give that Girl her Beauty Sleep!

Upstairs, a baby cries. My quiet time is over. I can tell by the voice that it’s Zach, but when I open the bedroom door, Mia’s head pops up over the crib rail. Nuts! I’ve opened the wrong door. However, the damage is done, and Mia has had a reasonable amount of sleep, so I bring both of them downstairs.

Zach doesn’t generally like to eat directly after a nap, but Mia does, so into the high chair she goes. She complains throughout snack time. She complains even more loudly through the diaper change that follows. She complains a little when I set her on the floor to play. She is quite manifestly not adjusting well to having been woken prematurely, but I decide to give her another few minutes.

I head upstairs to wash my hands. While I’m there – this takes, what, 90 seconds? – I hear an ungodly wailing from the dining room. A pause, then a scream, a pause, then a scream. Awful screaming. Ear-piercing, bone-chilling, nightmare-inducing, fingernails-down-the-blackboard screaming. When I race downstairs, at speeds that put my life, or at least my ankles, in serious jeopardy, tiny Mia somehow towers over the much larger boys. All 27 inches of her are rigid with rage. Her face is red and tear-streaked. One might reasonably imagine that one of the boys had injured her in some way, but not once one had seen the boys’ faces: Every one of the three are wide-eyed, horrified, pictures of shock. They’re a metre away and backing slowly further from the tiny inferno in front of them. There is no doubt in any of their minds that she is about to explode, or that her head is going to swivel completely round any second. This girl is dangerous and they are getting out of her way!

Nope, no injury, just a good old-fashioned temper tantrum. I scoop her up and cart her back to bed. She wriggled into the sheets, her little bottom up in the air, her thumb securely in her mouth. A deep sigh escapes her. This is where she should have been all along.


June 22, 2005 Posted by | aggression, sleep, socializing | 8 Comments


It’s nap time, and all is quiet. Yes, there are construction noises outside, but inside, all is calm. Thankfully. My ears are still ringing with Arthur.

Arthur has been with us a week now. It’s not been difficult, exactly, but it’s been tiring! He’s a very verbal child. Oh, come now, let’s not use insipid euphemisms: the boy is verbose. He talks non-stop, and he talks loud. What he says is often interesting, frequently funny, and occasionally exasperating. It’s also completely, absolutely, unstoppably incessant.

Prior to being with me, Arthur had a nanny. This year, though, Arthur’s family thought that a larger group would be good preparation for his entry to school in another year.

I think they’re absolutely right. Arthur has very little tolerance for sharing. Not sharing belongings – he’s not bad at that. Not great, not as good as many three year olds, but no worse than many others. What he hasn’t a clue about sharing is time, space, and attention.

He expects my attention non-stop. Obviously, he can’t have it, and we’ll train him into more realistic and less self-absorbed patterns in time, but in the meantime, it’s exhausting: “Not right now, Harry, I’m talking to Thomas.” “Arthur, you must stop talking now. George is trying to speak.” “What did Darcy say, Arthur? He has an idea, too.”

I wonder what would happen if I burst out with, “Oh, for heaven’s sake, Arthur, shut up a minute, will you?!” Of course, I won’t. But I do get my moments of delerium, where the fantasy has a lot of appeal…

He doesn’t share space well. This morning he called me over in great indignation, “Mary, they’re not giving me any roooom!!” Thomas, George, and Zach were standing at my window, watching the construction. There was ample room for Arthur there, and in fact, George had shifted down to make space for him. This was still, as far as Arthur was concerned, “Not making room”, for what Arthur expected was for everyone else to move out of the window. He is simply unused to the bit of jostling that’s a normal part of living in a group.

He doesn’t share time. When he’s got that conversational ball, he doesn’t let go of it for love nor money. On and on and on he goes.

So, of course I’m devising strategies to help him to learn, and even to enjoy, being with others, to see them as enhancers, rather than inhibitors of his days. I’ll teach him to cooperate with them for time, space, and attention, rather than constantly competiing. He’ll get there: he’s a cheerful, willing, straightforward little guy. It will also take a fair investment of my energy, and rock-solid consistent treatment, and steadily increasing expectations. Phew!

Can I have a nap, now, too?

June 22, 2005 Posted by | daycare, Developmental stuff, individuality, manners, socializing, the dark side | 3 Comments


We’ve clearly been exposed to too much heavy machinery this month: whenever I back the stroller up (my super-deluxe four-seater stroller), we all spontaneously burst out with:


June 21, 2005 Posted by | Mischief | 8 Comments