It’s Not All Mary Poppins

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.

July 21, 2005 Posted by | Liam, Mischief, the cuteness! | 4 Comments

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?

July 20, 2005 Posted by | outings | 10 Comments

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.

July 19, 2005 Posted by | Darcy, Developmental stuff, individuality, potty tales | 8 Comments

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!”

July 19, 2005 Posted by | food, Liam, my kids, the things they say! | 5 Comments

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.

Nuts! 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…

July 17, 2005 Posted by | random and odd, the dark side | 10 Comments

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.

July 15, 2005 Posted by | Alice, eeewww | 17 Comments

A New Project

Arthur 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. Arthur 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.

July 14, 2005 Posted by | daycare, Developmental stuff | 8 Comments

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.”

July 14, 2005 Posted by | my kids, outings, the things they say! | 6 Comments

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?

July 13, 2005 Posted by | our adoring public, outings | 11 Comments

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!

July 12, 2005 Posted by | my kids | 5 Comments