It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Banned Books Week

Did you know there’s a “Banned Books Week”? I only heard of it today, at the very end of the week, when I checked out Solo Mom’s blog from whom I’m now stealing just about her entire post, as follows:

My favourite Stephen King quotation is about banned books. His advice is that if someone tells you can’t read something, run, don’t walk, to your local library and find out for yourself what all the fuss is about. (Isn’t that cool? It’s what I’ve pretty much always done – unless I’ve read the book already!)

In honour of Banned Books Week, I’m offering a meme of sorts. Below is the ALA list of the 100 most frequently challenged books, 1990-2000. Bold the ones you’ve read. And then run, don’t walk, to your local library.

Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
Forever by Judy Blume
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Giver by Lois Lowry
It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Sex by Madonna
Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
The Goats by Brock Cole
Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
Blubber by Judy Blume
Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
Final Exit by Derek Humphry
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
Deenie by Judy Blume
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
Cujo by Stephen King
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
Fade by Robert Cormier
Guess What? by Mem Fox
The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Native Son by Richard Wright
Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
Jack by A.M. Homes
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
Carrie by Stephen King
Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
Family Secrets by Norma Klein
Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
The Dead Zone by Stephen King
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
Private Parts by Howard Stern
Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
Sex Education by Jenny Davis
The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

This is Mary again. You know, some of those, I can see who might be offended, and fear their influence on an unthinking public. Some deal with s-e-x in a reasoning and measured way, and, even more shockingly, are aimed at young teens, and thus scare the prudish spitless. Some (like the Goosebumps series, of which I’ve suffered through a couple) don’t deserve even the negative attention of the would-be banners. Dreck, utter dreck. But others? Who could object to Anastasia Krupnik? Bright, kind, funny Anastasia? Bridge to Terabithia? A Wrinkle in Time? Great books, teaching compassion, kindness, gentleness, thoughfulness – universal values, I would like to think. I wish.

© 2006, Mary P

September 30, 2006 Posted by | books | 20 Comments

God is Kind

Nigel said “please”.
And “thank you”.
With a smile.
After two hours spent screaming
when she was in my arms,
Anna slept FOR TWO HOURS
and woke happy
and didn’t need to be in my arms
for a whole, entire HOUR!
That’s three straight hours
of peace. 🙂
Malli came in snuffling
but quiet
and didn’t scream once the entire afternoon
chattered happily to me
while fingerpainting
This morning
Timmy’s mother phoned to tell me
that she was staying home today
and keeping him
with her.
(Not that Timmy is any trouble
blessings be upon his little bald head,
but one less baby is
that much less work.
On a Friday, no less!)

Thanks be.
I am grateful.

© 2006, Mary P

September 29, 2006 Posted by | daycare, the dark side | 7 Comments

Under Seige

“You may be angry but you may not scream.”
Malli. No. Screaming.”
“Malli. Anna needs me. If you are going to keep screaming, you can sit here until you’re finished.”
“Heh-uh,heh-uh,heh-uh, wwwwaaaaaa….”
“What’s up Anna? Hey, sweet baby?”
(Remember the round, happy baby? Well, she’s still round…)
“AAAAAaaaahhh.” Malli, alone in the kitchen, is trailing off a bit.
“I know, honey. You like me to be in the same room, don’t you?”
Quiet whimper from Anna. A cough from the kitchen, where Malli seems to have ceased with the glass-shattering.

Anna likes me in the same room, she likes to be on my lap, she likes my undivided attention while on said lap. This sharing of attention nonsense that’s required at daycare? Completely and unutterably intolerable, in wee Anna’s opinion. An opinion which she states, forcefully. And continually. And continuously. Naptime, of which she also disapproves, also demands vigorous opinion-expressing.

“Mah-wee? Gots poo.”

“Good boy, Nigel, for telling me. Let’s get rid of that stinky old diaper now.”


“Yes, stinky. I’ll just put Anna down first. Anna, lovie, I’m going to set you down so I can–”

“Uh,uh,uh, WWWWWWwaaaaaaahuhuhuhwaaaaa…”

“OW. Anna, let go of my hair. I’m going to change Nigel’s diaper now.”


And so it goes. So, if I’m not posting much for the next few days till we sort this out, you’ll know why…

* She really IS getting the “be-angry-but-don’t-scream” idea. Really. She used to scream for half an hour at a stretch when thwarted. Now it’s a couple of minutes. It’s just that screaming is still her default reaction to anger. One step at a time.

© 2006, Mary P

September 28, 2006 Posted by | Anna, behavioural stuff, Malli, Nigel, power struggle, tantrums | 9 Comments

Blowing my Cover

“Wuuu-wuuh! Wuh, wuh gaddagadaba. Mah-wee! Mah-wee, wuh, gadda tuck! Tuck, tuck, tuck wane! Wuh, man, man-ha, man-ee. Tuck, wah stikya ai.”

Nigel is on the very cusp of fluent speech. He has quite a few words, in fact. Individually or in pairs, his words are toddler-clear and effective. In larger groups, they’re a little more opaque.

Something has captured Nigel’s attention out the front window. I come to see what fascinates. A large moving van is parked outside the house across the street, the house which sold a while back. Oh, an activity we can both enjoy!

“Yes, I see the truck. The man has the truck. The man has a truck in the rain.”

“Hass ban? Hass ban? Hass ban? Hass dat?” His enthusiasm is adorable. I’m not snooping, I’m sharing an experience with a child.

“Yes, they have a van. What’s that? It looks like a table. The men are taking a table out of the van.”

“Table. Big table. Mrruh! Mrruh!”

“Oh, you’re right! What a lovely mirror! I wonder if they’ll put it in the hall. It has the look of a hall mirror.”

“Mrrr. Man hass mrruh. Goggy! Yady goggy!”

“You’re right! They lady has a doggie. A chocolate labrador! What a nice doggie. I wonder what his name is?”

“Goggie! Wuss goggie go?”

“The doggy went in the house with the lady. I wonder if that’s who’s moving in?”

“Wuss daddy?”

“At work, love. Oh, look, Nigel! See the chair?”


“That’s right, chair. There’s six of them, sweetie.” I like the lines of them, slim and elegant, but the colour? Never have been a fan of orange. “Let’s count the chairs! One…” Nigel’s butt bumps into me as he ducks under the couch. “Can you count the chairs, lovie?”

“Wuss Ahhma? Wuss Ahhma? Wuss Ahhma?” His voice is muffled. He’s right under there now. But what’s this? Well, with that light fixture over the dining table, maybe the orange chairs would work. That’s very clever, really.

“Wuss Ahhma? Wuss Ahhma?”

“What? Oh, Emma’s at school, love.”

“Wuss Aaah-Damn?”

“At school. Hey, Nigel, Nigel, look at the couch. More for style than comfort, that thing. Ick. Oh, and see the bed, and oh, look at that armoire. Very nice. Nigel? Nigel? Nigel?” A squeak and a bang from the kitchen. A distinctive sound – the hinged cupboard in the corner, where the crackers and cereal are kept. My joint activity has become solo.

In the mind of a toddler, snack-stalking trumps neighbour-snooping any day.

© 2006, Mary P

September 26, 2006 Posted by | Nigel, our adoring public | 10 Comments

Marketing Gone Bad

Malli lies on the living room floor, wailing.

“Mine! Mine! My Elmo!”

“Elmo’s in the garbage, honey.”

“My Elmo! Malli take Elmo home!”

“Oh, lovie. Elmo’s all dirty now. You don’t want to take that yukky thing home, do you?”

Stupid question.

“Elmo! Malli take Elmo hoooome!”

I guess I’d been a little hasty when I threw the thing out. I suppose there’s no harm in it. I fish it out, dust it off, put it in a plastic grocery bag.

“Here, Malli. You want to take Elmo home, you can take Elmo home.”

A few moments later, Malli’s mother peers in the bag at the sodden package enclosed there, clicks her tongue and sighs. “It’s Elmo, isn’t it?”

“Yep. She insisted.”

“She’s been fixated for a couple of weeks ago. I’ll sure be glad when we’re through this package.”

Malli’s mummy and I would like to thank the very clever people at Pampers who came up with the idea of putting Elmo on the buttside of their diapers. It’s certainly made our lives much more colourful challenging interesting odiferous loud.

© 2006, Mary P

September 25, 2006 Posted by | Malli, quirks and quirkiness | 17 Comments


This one taken from Allison. (On whose blog I don’t think I’ve ever commented – surpise, Alli!)

1. What time did you get up this morning?
I woke up at 6:20, got out of bed at quarter to seven. (Yes, on a Sunday. I don’t sleep in often. But in this case, there was a teenager heading to work for 7 – on foot – and it was pouring rain. I decided to haul myself out of bed and give the girl a ride. I am a Very Nice Stepmom.)

2. Diamonds or Pearls?
Neither. Well, they’re nice and all, and if anyone wanted to shower me with one or the other, I wouldn’t fight it, but really, I like colour. Opals and amethysts, topaz and turquoise. (Emeralds and rubies are nice, too, but I don’t have enough money to get within ten feet of either of them.)

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
The Notorious Betty Page

4. What is your favorite T. V. show?
Don’t watch TV.

5. What did you have for breakfast?
Soft-boiled eggs topped with salsa, on a bagel. Tea.

6. What is your middle name?
Don’t have one.

7. Favorite cuisine?
Thai (wet coconut curry – hot, hot, hot. Mmmmmm.)

8. What foods do you dislike?
Liver, lima beans, brussel sprouts, bland cheese.

9. What is your favorite chip flavor?
I looove chips, and am faddish. For a while it was Miss Vicki’s Salt and Vinegar and/or Miss Vicki’s lime and black pepper. Yummmmm…

10. What is your favorite CD at the moment?
Harry Manx, Wise and Otherwise. (I think it’s been my favourite for aobut two years now.)

11. What kind of car do you drive?
Umm…a dark green station wagon. It’s too rainy out there to see the writing on the side. It has a jump seat in the back, so we can fit five or six of our kids! Which means only a couple have to run alongside!!

12. Favorite sandwich?
Grilled portobello mushroom, eggplant, and swiss cheese on focaccia. (How’s that for pretentious? But really, I love them!)

13. What characteristics do you despise?
Prissiness, belligerence, willful ignorance, personal dishonesty.

13a. What characteristics do you like about someone?
Personal honesty, willingness to communicate, curiosity, laughter.

14. Favorite item of clothing?
Varies hugely, depending on my mood, the season, the time of the month. I like long, flowing skirts. I wear a lot of jeans, but that’s more practicality than any particular love of them.

15. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go?
Australia, South Pacific, western Europe. For starters.

16. What color is your bathroom?
Robin’s. ugh. Egg. ugh. Blue. ugh. and white. Ugh.

17. Favorite brand of clothing?
Don’t have one. The only item where that matters to me is running shoes: Avia or Saucony. (Not because I run, but I do spend a LOT of time on my feet.)

18. Where would you retire to?
Someplace temperate. With indoor plumbing and electricity.

19. What was your most memorable birthday?
Ummmm…. Probably the one where I was five minutes into it before I realized this was a Surprise Birthday party and not just an amazing coincidence of all these friends being in the same pub at the same time!! Imagine that! That was, um, 41? 42?

20. Favorite sport to watch?
I watch the Olympics sometimes.

21. Goals you have for yourself?
Make enough money from writing to live on. (Which goal I will pursue by vigourously dangling prepositions! And using lots of adverbs! And sentence fragments! And exclamation marks!!!) Survive my childrens’ adolescence with as few tears (mine) as possible. Achieve menopause and finally get off the peri-menopausal emotional roller coaster.

© 2006, Mary P

September 24, 2006 Posted by | memes and quizzes | 5 Comments

Breaking Settling-in Malli

Malli was here again yesterday, her third day with me. She was here a couple of days last week, and clearly thought she’d done her bit at entering the wider world. She most certainly didn’t expect to have to do it again! I could hear her expressing her… misgivings from half a block away. Her face was blotchy red, her eyes swollen, when she arrived. Mum’s face was haggard.

Malli’s a bright little girl, though. Last week, we had worked very intensely on “You may be angry, you may be sad, but you May.Not.Scream.” (You can see in the sidebar. Malli is the one with the Will of Iron.) The first day took 40 minutes to cease the screaming; the second day took eleven. Yesterday, after a week off and with her more upset at the outset, it took only six. She remembered! She remembered the rules, but more importantly she remembered that I am probably one of the few people in the world whose will is even ironer than hers. Must be those supplements.

After she’d ceased with the screaming yesterday, it took a while before she was partaking happily of what Mary’s house has to offer. She didn’t want to be here; she wanted to be with her mummy, and though she took what comfort I offered, she was not going to be happy about it! So there.

“What’s Nigel got? Shall we play potato head with Nigel?”

“No.” It’s not loud, it’s not angry. It’s small, and short, rather pathetic in fact, but unshakeable. “No.”

“Let’s get those shoes off.”


Off come the shoes. No further protest.

“Shall we see what to have for lunch?”


She follows me into the kitchen.

“I like beans. I’m going to cook some beans.”

“No.” She pours some beans into the water.

“Are you ready to eat now?”


She isn’t, either, but I know that if I leave the food someplace accessible and ignore her, it’ll vanish somehow.

“Let’s read this story.”

“No.” She climbs onto the couch beside me.

“Pick a book, Malli.”


“Would you like this book? Or this one?”


“Look at the kitten! Isn’t he funny?”


“I’m going to go to the bathroom. Do you want to come with me, or stay down here?”


I’m not losing patience here. This little mite is undergoing a huge culture shock. She’s moved from a very involved, loving home where she’s the indulged baby sister to two very nice little boys. At two and a bit, she still nurses on demand, mummy lays down to nap with her. Mum has immersed herself in the home and family for well over ten years, and only now has decided it’s time to carve out some private time and space for herself. Four hours, twice a week, is a kind and gentle baby step for Malli, but Malli doesn’t know that.


Me, I’m sort of impressed. She may be bowed, but she is not broken. We can drag her to daycare, but we can’t make her like it! And she will Not.Co-operate. She’s a feisty little thing, and I love the feisty ones.


Doesn’t prevent me playing with their heads a little, though…

“Malli, can you say ‘No’? I bet you can! Just say ‘no’ for me, okay?” I favour her with a brilliant smile, eyes wide, awaiting the “no” I’ve asked for. (Yes, I’m evil. Isn’t it fun?)

Silence. Contrariness wars with accuracy. YES, she can say ‘no’, but damned if she’ll let a word of positivity cross those pretty pink lips. But if she say’s NO, she’s complying with a request! What to do??? I watch the conflict flicker over her face. Heh.

She’s baffled for a moment, but she’s not stupid.

She won’t say “no”; she won’t say “yes”. Suddenly her head is a blur of blond curls with ths vigour of her defiant head.

She won’t utter the word, but that head shake? Deafening!

I love this kid!

© 2006, Mary P

September 22, 2006 Posted by | Malli, Mischief, power struggle | 13 Comments

Once won’t kill him

…she said.

Timmy greets me in his usual enthusiastic fashion, bouncing and flapping in his mother’s arms.

“Did he have his usual naps yesterday?” There are largish bags under her eyes.

“No, in fact he didn’t.”

“I wondered, because last night? Last night he was wired! Just wired! It took him forever to get to sleep – I had to try three separate times to get him down. Unless it’s teeth? You think it might be teeth?”

Oh, such a temptation she lays before me. But, no, Professionalism wins the day.

“Well, they spend the better part of their first two years teething. You can attribute a lot of things to teeth, but in this case, I think we can stick with the obvious. It was almost certainly because he skipped his morning nap.”

“Oh, good. Glad we’re on the same page, then.”



© 2006, Mary P

September 21, 2006 Posted by | sleep, the dark side | 8 Comments

Radio Show

A lot a bunch some one of you, asked if I could post the link to the show. I don’t think we’re the, ah, most polished interviewees in the world, but it’s not a bad start!

(The commercial host of the show is, an organization whose mandate is to link children with the best toys and resources for their growth and development.)

You know, if I’m going to branch out into the commercial world, I’ve got to get less self-conscious about giving the plugs. So maybe I should take the parentheses off?

© 2006, Mary P

September 20, 2006 Posted by | Partners in Parenting | 5 Comments

Seeking Daylight

The third week of September is drawing to a close, and I’m still adjusting. Six weeks ago, I had three three-year-old boys in my home every day, plus a couple younger tots. Now I have an almost-two and a one-year-old. That’s it. In another week I’ll start another one-year old.

Heck, this is practically NOT WORKING!! And as a result of these super-light, super-easy days, my house is now SPOTLESS! And I’ve gotten ahead in my BOOKKEEPING! And all my TAX FILES are PERFECTLY ORGANIZED! AND you can SEE the BASEMENT FLOOR! And I’ve caught up on all those blogs I was so neglecting over the summer.

Well, one of those, anyway. You guess which.

There is a totally different rhythm to my days now. We have Morning Naps around here. AND afternoon naps! Woo-hoo! (Well, the almost-two doesn’t nap in the morning. But he’s very quiet. Doesn’t even say please boo.)

I am beginning to feel just the teensiest bit housebound, though. With all this morning napping going on, our window for outings is awfully small. We’ve had a lot of rain, so I really didn’t notice how constrained I was feeling until yesterday’s glorious sun. I knew I was feeling constrained because this morning I had to wash all those nose prints off the living room window. And they were mine.

Need. To. Get. Out.

But babies need to nap, and I am a self-confessed nap nazi. Not for other people. You want to drag your kid from pillar to post all the time, that’s your call. (Just don’t whine to me that your baby is whining at you all day. You makes your choices, you accepts the consequences.) But for the kids in my care? Naps are top priority, really.

Because babies need their sleep, for their good humour, for their brain development, and, frankly, for my sanity.

Really. Who wants to be holed up with five whining toddlers all day? Not me!

Really. Who wants to hang out with cranky, under-rested babies? Not me!

Really. Not —

Okay. Can someone come and sit on my couch while they have their nap? I’ll let you play with my laptop! Just for twenty minutes, thirty tops, so I can sneak out and have a coffee?


Wait! Someone just sneezed up there. I’m sure he’s waking up. He’s had 45 minutes. Surely that’ll tide him over till after lunch!

Once won’t kill him.


© 2006, Mary P

September 20, 2006 Posted by | daycare, sleep, the dark side | 6 Comments