It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Sex Ed

I am the totally cool mom when it comes to this stuff. My kids get straight information when they ask. Prissiness and prudery are not only not allowed in this household, they are derided as unhealthy dirty-mindedness. I don’t get embarrassed. The only way I’ve ever embarrassed my kids about sex and sexuality is by being enthusiastic about the subject in front of their friends. I’m working on that one…

No subject is taboo, and they know it. My children have never felt they needed to be coy about this aspect of their lives, unlike the 20 year old daughter of a friend of mine who, even though she is on the pill and brings her boyfriend to spend the night, gets indignant when mother says anything to indicate that she believes her daughter is sexually active. How stupid do they think we are, again? My children are entitled to their privacy, of course, but they don’t have to hide things to protect mum’s squeamishness.


I love the column Savage Love, which appears in a free local entertainment paper each week. I let my kids read it. The youngest (just turned 12) isn’t particularly interested yet, finds it either “boring”, “gross”, or responds with “I don’t get it”. That’s okay. She gets the information as she needs it, from a trusted and reputable source. Me. The other two read it.

Why do I let them read something so explicit? Because Dan Savage, for all his in-yer-face, aggressive, tough-talking persona, is very kind to the sexually innocent.

Take this weeks’s column, in which a teen complains that a 17-year-old friend is so obsessed with a character on Yu-Gi-Oh! that she refuses to have anything to do with actual boys her own age. They all fall short. “She constantly complains that none of the real guys ar our high school as are good as [him]. What can I do to help her?”

Savage’s reply (will I get in copyright trouble for this?):

“Your friend’s obsession is juvenile…but I wouldn’t call it pointless. Like a lot of high-school kids, your friend probably feels pressured to be sexually active…Most not quite-ready-for-sex teenagers hide behind Jesus’ skirts when their friends ask why they’re not fucking, but nonreligious kids have to be a bit more creative. Some, like your friend, invent grand/tragic sexual obsessions that prevent them from dating mere mortals. Your friend doesn’t want you to think she’s unhip, or that she isn’t just dying to have sex, or that she isn’t heterosexual, so she’s convinced you (and perhaps herself) that she’s obsessed with [the cartoon character]. And you know what? That’s just fine. Finding fault with all potential real-life boys is a way for her to avoid sexual experiences she’s not ready for. So just back off, okay?”

He’s abrasive, he uses colloquial terms – some would call them vulgar or even profane, but there’s no doubt what he means, which is good. But his bottom line? No one should be pressured to have sex before they’re ready.

This is a good message.

August 26, 2005 Posted by | sex | 11 Comments


From the archives. Three years ago.

It was naptime for Sweet Girl. She’d had her story on the couch, and being a Sweet Girl, it took about 40 seconds to settle her for her nap. Forty seconds in which Noisy Boy must be left alone downstairs, but that’s okay. Noisy Boy was building towers of blocks to smash down. It would be no problem to keep track of his actions. Lay her down, tuck her in, a quick kiss, and I’m on my way back downstairs.

It is silent.

Noisy Boy is alive. Phew.

Noisy Boy has found a quiet activity! He is is happy. Oh, so happy. Noisy Boy glistens and gleams. Noisy Boy’s hair protrudes from his head at odd angles in shiny clumps. Noisy Boy’s white shirt is strangely translucent. Not wet, but shiney and wax-paperish. Noisy Boy…

…has found an “empty” jar of Vaseline from the steps by the back door, awaiting tranfer to the blue recycling bin outside. In the forty seconds he was left untended, he has managed to entirely coat his head and much of his torso in clear grease. How? This jar was empty! Not enough grease in there to coat a bum, but plenty, it seems to coat a boy from stem to stern.

Oh, Lord. Where to start?

Stage one: Strip off the shirt.

Get out the paper towels. Apply to hair and pull slick strands through the towel wrapped round my hands. Great gobs of grease are removed in this way. We scrape his hair, his face, his arms, his belly, his back, his knees. Towel after towel goes in the garbage.

Stage two: richly soapy washcloth is applied to every inch of glistening skin. A thorough scrub, a brisk rinse, and he’s grease-free. On his skin. This leaves…

Stage Three:

The Hair

Cue sinister music: “ba-ba-ba-baaath”.

We repair to the tub. He was really, really good about the hairwashing. He really was. For at least the first six repeats. I tried everything: regular shampoo, greasy hair shampoo, hand soap… The next four washes weren’t so well received, and the final two were a fight to the finish. By then the poor babe was positively drooping in his misery, so I take pity on him – besides, my arms were getting shaky – and I dry him off.

Twelve hair-washes. Twelve! And he still looks like a duck after Exxon. Even when he’s thoroughly dry, his hair still looks wet, soaking wet, except that it’s dry, and it’s standing straight up on end. We’re both exhausted, though, so I put him to bed, an old towel over the pillow.

After nap, we rejoin the fray. I cannot send him home looking like this. Can’t be done. His father, a great guy, fond parent, nicely laid back and a great sense of humour, will think it’s hysterically funny, but his mother, Ms. Anal-Retentive Humour-Impaired Whiner, will not. (Was I surprised when they divorced two years later?)

This time I opt for dishwashing detergent (with Special Grease-cutting Formula!!) at the kitchen sink. It’s much more effective. After only four wash-and-rinses, I can see definite improvement. After another three, the hair in front is looking nearly normal. A final wash or two – I kinda lost count – and I throw in the towel. Literally. Figuratively. Enough is enough.

We spent the next half hour snuggled up, reading quietly, recovering. Even Noisy Boy has his limits.

Even then, after something like twenty washes, he looked odd. Sticky. Thankfully, dad picked him up that night. Dad also dropped him off the next morning, gleefully telling me that (as per my instructions) he had washed Noisy Boy’s hair a few more times with dish detergent that evening. I didn’t see Mom for the rest of that week. I don’t think she was speaking to me…

August 26, 2005 Posted by | eeewww, Mischief | 8 Comments

Vocabulary Confusion

Conversation between me and small son, then age two and a half. It is January. I am in the basement, using a palm sander.

“What’s dat, mummy?”
“It’s a palm sander.”
“Dat’s your pom-pom sander?”
I stop the machine. I discern a Teachable Moment, and I can’t let that go by. Besides, this is funny. First, let’s clarify the source of confusion. We need to Define Our Terms.

“What’s your palm, Adam?”

“It’s what goes onna top of my hat!”

Yes, it is as I thought. Confounded by a homonym. I turn his dimpled hand over, show him his palm. “This is your palm, sweetie.”

“Dis is my palm?”

“Yes, yes that’s right. It’s your palm.” Very carefully enunciated, very encouraging. Then I take his other pudgy hand and turn it palm-up.

“So what’s this, then?”

He considers both hands very carefully, and looks up.

“Dis is my hat???”

August 25, 2005 Posted by | my kids, the things they say! | 7 Comments

Theology 101

This happened round the dining table, back when my practice was more orthodox than it currently is. (I still have beliefs, but they don’t fall neatly into that particular package any more.)

We were reading the Genesis story – you know, Adam, Eve, the snake and the apple. We came to the part where Adam blames Eve for leading him into sin. Haley, then 5 and a half, responded with indignation:

“That’s not fair!!” And of course she’s right. Adam is being a weasel. Eve’s first sin may have been disobedience; Adam’s was moral cowardice. Very pleased with her acuity, I ask,

“And where was Adam when Satan was trying to get Eve to disobey? Where was he?” (The answer, which, strangely, was never made entirely clear to me by my various Sunday School teachers, is: STANDING RIGHT BESIDE HER!!)

Haley paused before answering, and her little brother Adam (then two and a half) piped in, earnest and intense:

“I go and get God!!”

Well. The story would have had a whole ‘nuther ending if my Adam had been in the Garden!

August 25, 2005 Posted by | my kids, the cuteness!, the things they say! | 10 Comments

Musical Meme

List ten songs that you are currently digging. It doesn’t matter what genre they are from, whether they have words, or even if they’re no good but they must be songs you’re really enjoying right now. Post these instructions, the artists, and the ten songs in your blog. Then tag five other random people to see what they’re listening to.

This meme courtesty of IEatCrayonz. Although I have not, nor ever expect, to be “digging” anything except perhaps in my garden. Child of the sixties though I may be, much of my time spent in that decade was spent in diapers and pre-verbal. But ten songs I like? No problem. The only problem will be keeping it to ten.

1. Right now I’m listening to Tracey Chapman, the New Beginning album. My favourite from that: Give me One Reason.

2. Album: Time Out
Group: The Dave Brubeck Quartet
Favourite Track: Take Five

3. Album: Sunshine on Leith
Group: The Proclaimers
Track: I’m Gonna Be (I would walk 500 miles)

4. Album: Genius of Modern Music
Artist: Thelonius Monk
Track: Round Midnight

5. Album: Shrek soundtrack
There are three tracks I love on this, and I’m counting them as one choice. Deal with it. I’m a Believer, Smash Mouth; Bad Reputation, Half Cocked; and my really, truly favourite: Hallelujah (written by Leonard Cohen), sung by Rufus Wainwright.

6. Album: A.J. Croce
Artist: A. J. Croce (yes, son of Jim)
Favourite: He’s got a way with Women (because it’s punchy, and because of the way the verse ends: “…and he just got away with mine”.)

7. Album: Wise and Otherwise
Artist: Harry Manx
Favourite: Only then will Your House Be Blessed

8. Album: Horn Concertos
Composer: W. A. Mozart
Favourite: Number 2 in E flat major

9. Album: Practical Man
Artist: Tom Lips
Favourite: Honesty; This Love is a Weed (Yes, I know this is two. See number 5.)

10. Album: Greatest Hits
Group: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Favourite: I Won’t Back Down

Oh, and as for tagging people. It’s up to you, folks: Who wants a go? If you decide to do it, just email me or leave a comment here, so we’ll know to check in on your list.

August 24, 2005 Posted by | memes and quizzes | 8 Comments

Home Decorating

Pictures, as promised.

Here is the inspirational switchplate. She found this at a craft sale last fall, and spent $12.00 of her very own money buying it. Not something she does without thought: my daughter is a saver, not a spender, bless her mother’s genes and her own sweet little heart.

And here is the inspired door. Remind you of anything?? Sorry about the blurriness – I was standing on one foot, not so deftly balancing the camera while avoiding all the wet paint, drippy brushes, buckets of drywall mud and strips of leftover trim. Nonetheless, you get the idea.

August 23, 2005 Posted by | crafts, my kids | 17 Comments


…savouring my last few days of holiday. I start back next Thursday.

I’ve had a varied morning: down to Home Hardware for paint. Such helpful salespeople in there, and for some unknown reason, half of them seem to be from Ohio. Or thereabouts. Sure sounds like it. How’d they end up here? Why are they all working for the Home Hardware? Nice folk, though. Helpful.

A client (Alice’s mother) informed me that she’s expecting, and will be removing Alice from care in January, when the new baby is due. No, she isn’t showing yet. She has some health problems, and it shows in her almost-emaciated frame. I hope all goes well for her. She seems quite confident it will.

Then coffee with a friend, who found out only a couple of days ago that her ex is dying. She’d lived with this man for 10 years, he’d helped raise her two children, but she eventually kicked him out five years ago because of his chronic and continuing alcoholism. She always said, though, that if he could ever give it up and stay dry, she’d take him back. Even though her life moved on and she’s seeing someone else now, I think some secret part of her psyche always kept hoping. She loves him. He is dying, at the age of 40, because his liver has ceased to function. Such a waste!

Tears ensued, hers staunchly choked back, followed – or perhaps precipitated – by an unprecedented PDA (my friend’s a Brit, and not given to allowing such things), and a promise on my part to go to the funeral with her. I never met the man: he was before my time in her life, though not by much, but she needs the support. Not only is she genuinely grieving, but I know no one who hates funerals as she does. So we’ll go together, I’ll hold her hand, and tell her fiercely that it’s all right to cry!

We chatted of other things, too, comforting, normal things. We laughed.

Then home to finish painting my youngest’s new room. It’s been in construction all month, but the nice young man who we’d hired has now hammered his last nail, and it’s almost ready for use. We primed and painted the walls before he put up the trim. We painted the door today – it matches the switchplate she bought, with her own money, at a craft fair last fall. (This child’s favourite shows are Trading Spaces and While You Were Out. No kidding. Pictures will follow when my sweetie gets back with the camera.) She ordered the hammock, which will be suspended over her bed like a bunk bed, last night from “”. I’ll let you know if they’re reputable…

My son is home with a couple of friends,lounging about the living room, eating pizzas which they bought themselves and listening to “The Arrogant Worms”. Now, the son hasn’t listened to them in quite some time – clearly he likes the girl who requested them…

Me, I sit on the porch, listening to the sound of the Ex, a mere kilometre away, in the background, watching the construction workers replace the decorative stone that had to be ripped up for the temporary water mains – which have now been removed! We’re now back on city water, with our brand spankin’new water and sewer lines. How exciting.

This is summer in Ottawa. Just the usual: life, death, and construction.

August 23, 2005 Posted by | random and odd | 6 Comments


From the archives. Six years ago.

Perky Girl has arrived, and has trotted merrily off into the living room to play. I am at the back door greeting parents and later arrivals, but I can still hear her. This is a good thing, because a all parents know that a silent 19 month old is all too often a child who is endangering something – herself, her friends, the pets, the furnishings.

It’s not quiet out there, but what we can hear is in no way reassuring. Sudden and horrific choking sounds: “Gak! Hork! Whoop!” assault our ears. Perky Girl is quite clearly choking to death out there. Ohmigod, How long do I have? I’m halfway across the room in one giant, adrenaline-fuelled bound, two terrified parents in my wake, when Perky Girl rounds the corner of the kitchen. Her face is a healthy pink. She beams sunnily up at three frozen adult faces. Not even a tinge of blue, nor even of green. What gives?

“Hey there, Perky Girl. What on earth were you doing out there?” I aim for calm and cheerful, but I can hear the quiver in my voice. She doesn’t notice. She has something to show me, and how convenient I should ask! In her pudgy fist she holds a yellow plastic drumstick, which, I assumed had been used for such benign pursuits as, oh, beating on a drum, or maybe the walls or furniture. Dragging it across the poor long-suffering guinea pig’s cage is also a favourite activity, but that wasn’t what I’d been hearing.

None of the above, not this time. She takes the drum stick, and shoves it down her throat, surely giving her tonsils a solid wallop in the process. “Gak, hork!”, she wretches, gags, and heaves. She pulls the drum stick out of her throat, and gives me a repeat of the big, beaming smile. She radiates excitment and satisfaction. Her thoughts are crystal clear: “Way cool!! Great party trick, huh, Mary???”

Gak, indeed.

August 22, 2005 Posted by | eeewww, random and odd | 13 Comments

May I Brag?

When my son, who is sixteen, leaves the house, he always gives me a hug goodbye.
Even when his friends are there.

August 20, 2005 Posted by | my kids | 9 Comments

Because it’s there, that’s why

From the archives, five years ago…

This story is of an eighteen-month-old boy, one of the most energetic, happiest, most positive I’ve ever had in the daycare. Tons of activity, tons of fun. I loved this boy.

(You don’t love them all, you know. Of course I feel affection for all of them, and take pleasure in their accomplishments and their little emerging characters. Some of them, though, some of them get right under your skin and all the way into your heart, and you know you’d happily take him in as one of your own if it came to that: Lil Dude was one of that type.)

That afternoon, Lil Dude, feeling full of beans and tough as nails after his nice long nap, decided needed to stretch himself a little. All his routine stuff – charging around like a mad thing, lifting the end of the dining table bench, knocking over block towers, shoving chairs around, sliding the guinea pig cage across the room, knocking over other children with his signature commando hugs – all that everyday stuff? None of it was sufficiently challenging for Lil Dude today. No sir, what was needed was something different, something significant, something BIG!!

He trotted around the house, obviously seeking that special something, that extra challenge, but not quite sure just what he was after. Until he came to the fireplace in the living room. Just the thing!

He trotted over to the wall into which the fireplace is set, and wedged himself against the bricks of the fireplace where they jutted out into the room. His back was to the wall, his right shoulder leaning against the 10 cm lip of brick, and he was facing into the living room. His cheek pressed into the bricks, he leaned his shoulder against the fireplace, braced his feet on the floor. All systems go? Yes? Away we gooooo!

He grunted, he panted, his face was screwed up with the effort. His legs quivered, his tendons strained, his face slowly reddened as he pushed, and pushed, and pushed!

Clearly, the intent was to move the fireplace just a few inches over to the left.


August 20, 2005 Posted by | individuality, quirks and quirkiness, random and odd | 9 Comments