It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Hands are for…?

If you’ve been reading long enough, you know the answer.

Wrong answers include: hitting, pinching, pushing, grabbing, and shoving, all things my compatriots at work are distinctly inclined to do. (Bearing in mind they’re all under three feet and three years old.)

When working with such folk, a good response to bad behaviour is to give them a good alternative. (Learned that in teacher’s college. “Don’t tell them what you DON’T want them to do; tell them what you WANT them to do.” Works for kids of all ages.) For toddler attacks of the manual variety, my preferred alternative is,

“Hands are not for [insert inappropriate action here], hands are for hugging!” And then we all engage in hugs of various groups of tots and grownups. Much, much more fun!

Knowing this, one of my parents sent me this today:

Sure to make you smile.


January 31, 2007 Posted by | individuality, manners, parenting, the cuteness! | 18 Comments

My Week thus far






‘Nuff said…

January 30, 2007 Posted by | eeewww, the dark side | 17 Comments

In Words We Trust…

Today’s SaBloBoMo offering: Jasper Fforde’s “The Well of Lost Plots”.fforde.jpg

In an off-beat word-as-world conceit* Fforde presents a world of books, a place in which characters inhabit their books in a reality discrete from, though related to, the “Outland”. Thursday Next, a woman from the Outland (aka the real world), decides to get away from it all (and she has a LOT to get away from) by living for a year in the plot of an unpublished and probably unpublish-able book in the Well of Lost Plots.

The book is full of fun and frivolous play with the metaphor. We meet “Generics”, characters not yet assigned to a plot; we learn of characters involved in the Character Exchange Program, where bored protagonists get to explore the world of another book; we watch backstories being bartered; we fight Grammasites. In fact, so much silliness is enjoyed this way that you hardly notice a slight thinness in plot from time to time.

I received this book (the third in a series) from a friend. I’ll probably read the others as well – though I’ll take her advice and not read them back-to-back. I suspect she’s quite right when she says “the joke wears a little thin three books in a row”. And when I’m finished, I’ll let my kids read it. All three are avid fans of “The Phantom Tollbooth”, a made-for-kids variation of the same sort of fun; they’ll love this.

*This is for Si, because he always wants to know:

CONCEIT (also called a metaphysical conceit): An elaborate or unusual comparison–especially one using unlikely metaphors, simile, hyperbole, and contradiction. Before the beginning of the seventeenth century, the term conceit was a synonym for “thought” and roughly equivalent to “idea” or “concept.” It gradually came to denote a fanciful idea or a particularly clever remark. In literary terms, the word denotes a fairly elaborate figure of speech, especially an extended comparison involving unlikely metaphors, similes, imagery, hyperbole, and oxymora.

January 29, 2007 Posted by | books, memes and quizzes | 7 Comments

Five Things about Me

Dani has tagged me for a meme. I’ve done this one before, so decided I’d keep my five things to a theme: pregnancy, labour, delivery. How’s that for specific?

1. I liked being pregnant (except for those last few teeeeeeedious weeks), and – here’s the weird bit – I enjoyed labour. No, it wasn’t fun. It wasn’t “Whee! Lookit me havin’ a baby!” kind of enjoyment. But: did I take pride in my body, and in my response to my three labours? Betcher ass I did.

2. I wanted a home birth, but couldn’t afford it, so each of my three kids were born in birthing centres – a different one in a different city for each. I was back home within six hours of delivery for the second and third babies. (Now home births are covered by provincial health insurance. Then, they weren’t.)

3. I have supported the births of a dozen or so babies. I loved, loved, loved it. Nothing like seeing a baby draw its first breath, and the joy on the faces of everyone in the room. I don’t think that would ever get stale.

4. I taught prenatal classes to several hundred couples over a five-year period. Taking a good class and being prepared makes a HUGE difference to a couple’s satisfaction with the birth, even when it doesn’t go according to “plan”. (Which is good, because it usually doesn’t!!)

5. I get depressed when I hear a mother say, even in this day and age, “I’ll breastfeed IF I have enough milk.” And will your baby breathe IF it’s born with lungs? Some things are almost that much of a given – breastfeeding is one of them. Not 100%, but 99.9. Believe it!

January 28, 2007 Posted by | memes and quizzes, pregnancy and delivery | 15 Comments

Cause and Effect

I have the habit of boiling half a dozen eggs at a time, and then popping them into the fridge for later use as a snack, or on salads, or to be thrust into the hand of a son who “doesn’t have time” for breakfast. We don’t have an egg rack in the fridge, so the cooked ones go back in the cardboard carton, with ‘HB’ written on top.

Darcy had seen this system many times over his couple of years with me, and at four, he’s now old enough to understand that HB are letters conveying a specific meaning. Last time he visited, he asked for a hard-boiled egg.

“I’m sorry, sweetie, I don’t have any made right now, and there isn’t time to make one before you have to go home.”

“Oh, that’s okay.” He opens the fridge and points to the carton off eggs. “Just write HB on one of these!”

January 26, 2007 Posted by | the things they say! | 9 Comments

Sing, sing a song…

Music and little children. Turn on a CD, and Nigel is drawn to the speaker as surely as iron is drawn to a magnet. He stands, mesmerized, swaying gently side to side, a small boy in a melodious trance. Timmy is more active in his appreciation, arms windmilling, whole body bouncing. Anna and Emily smile and wiggle, or, if the music is lively, shriek and clap and/or stomp their feet.

Only Malli and Nigel have yet tried to sing. Nigel and Malli like to sing. They love to sing. Though ‘musical’ isn’t quite the label for their vocal efforts just yet, they are having a wonderful time, and who knows how this might blossom one day?

Nigel’s musical contribution today was a True Canadian effort. The words were clear – all five that he remembered – and the rhythm, sound. No discernable tune, mind you, but two out of three isn’t bad.

“Rippy the gator goes,
Chomp, chomp, chomp!
Rippy the gator goes
Chomp, chomp, chomp!”

Just those two lines. Over and over and over and over again. Rippy the gator chomped his way through most of the morning and a goodly chunk of the afternoon. (Curious as to the rest of the lyrics? Click on the song – it will take you there. You may muse privately on the curious-ness of the family that puts this song in the player of their two-year-old…)

Malli, meanwhile – often simultaneously – serenaded us with this:

Fah-lah Dakka, Fah-lah Dakka,
Doe-mah vous, doe-mah vous.
Son-la-la-la ming dum,
Son-la-la-la ming dum,
Ding, dong, dong,
Ding, dong, dong!

About as tuneful as Nigel’s effort, and equally rhythmic, but the lyrics? They’re a tad muddy*, no denying it. Call me odd, though, but I think I prefer Malli’s song…

*No, the garbled lyrics cannot be blamed on the fact that Malli is singing in French. Malli, the lucky, lucky child, is fluently, 100%, French-English bilingual.

January 25, 2007 Posted by | the things they say! | 11 Comments

I’m A Winner!!

I’ve come into my fortune, at last! I knew it was only a matter of time, and this morning, it happened.

There, in my Inbox,

***Your Email Address Have Won***

Couldn’t be clearer than that now, could it? See, it’s because of some changes in the laws over there in Europe…

With the introduction of new types of games, with the ushering in of on-line technology and with the permits issued under EU law to EU countries to compete for concessions to run games in Italy and on the internet, we are launching our first international program.

(Which could be a little clearer, but you get the gist.)

And changes in how they run their lottery…

We are running a program where instead of bought tickets and numbers in the ballots we use email addresses. All contestants were selected through a computer ballot system drawn from email addresses taken from all over the world.

And I really should be excited, because…

[My] E-mail address has come up as one of the winners; you have therefore won the sum of One Million United States Dollars (US $1,000,000, 00).

One million dollars! US! That’s, like, um… MORE than one million dollars! CDN!!!

The only part that confuses me is that I have to follow a link and check out their terms and conditions. If I’ve won, then surely all they need do is send me the cheque?

And why, at the bottom, are they thanking me for for “being part of our promotional program”?

But they’re very nice about it:

Congratulations once more from all of us at Superenalotto!!

And when I’m rich, I’ll remember all my friends. Promise.

So I’m wondering: how many of YOU also woke up and discovered that you, too, were millionaires?

January 24, 2007 Posted by | memes and quizzes, random and odd | 11 Comments


“Mommy, Daddy, can I sleep with you? I had a bad dream.”

If you have a child over the age of three or so (and you don’t co-sleep!), you’ve probably heard these words a time or three. Though your child has been having dreams all along – in fact, REM sleep has been detected in infants at 28 weeks’ gestation – it is between the ages of 3 and 5 that children report the most nightmares. This has to do with their increased imagination and their increasing awareness of the world around them, which bring with them an increase in fears. Suddenly, masks are scary, there are monsters under the bed, wolves in the closet, and that shadow cast by the lamp is a bear… The fears often creep into their sleep, and nightmares begin.

When I was two or so, I am told, my mother was woken one night by my screams of terror. When she asked what was wrong, all I could manage in my disoriented state was incoherent babbling about a “big bunny”. Apparently, when you’re two or so, vicious killer bunnies are a Big Deal.

Generally speaking, a parent’s natural response – to cuddle, soothe, comfort – is the correct one. Sometimes you may opt to lift the covers and let them snuggle with your comforting body; other nights, you may decide to walk them back to their own bed.

Parents get concerned when the nightmares occur night after night. If I let him in bed every time, am I creating a habit I don’t want to maintain? Is she really having that many nightmares, or am I being had? But what if I don’t comfort, and he is truly frightened…?

This is where parents get creative. A little scent in a spray bottle of water makes great anti-monster spray, which I’ve used to protect against bad dreams – sprayed in the room before bed, it often helps a child get to bed without fear. Dreamcatchers are nice, too. Some parents put a flashlight on the bedside table. Though these help a child get to sleep, none really keep a child in their bed.

Which still leaves us with the conundrum: how do I support my child in the night without either allowing myself to be taken advantage of or creating an unwelcome habit?

Here’s a thought, used with my own children. I am sure it’s been thought of before, but it was new to me when I thought of it.

At first, I just moved over so they could sleep with me. It’s the simplest way to give instant comfort – but it meant a light, restless sleep for me, and after a couple of weeks of three times a week, I was tired. And I also had the sneaking suspicion I might just be being had…

At this point, I created a “bad dream bed”. I took the old crib mattress, made it up nicely, and put it on the floor by my side of the bed. When a child felt the need of reassurance, they could trot in and lay down. Often I’d wake enough to drop a hand over the side of the bed and pat their back, but sometimes I wouldn’t know until I got up in the morning and discovered the little body in the wee bed.

There was a period where, I am quite sure, the novelty of being allowed carte blanche access to mom and dad’s room was taken advantage of. But, did it matter? I was sleeping, the child was sleeping – everyone is happy! After two or three weeks, the frequency tapered off, but the option of night-time comforting was always available.

I can’t remember how long the Bad Dream Bed stayed in my bedroom. Probably a few months. Eventually, when a month or more had gone by without it being used, it was put away.

But for each of my three kids, the Bad Dream Bed made its reappearance and fulfilled its noble duty – comforted frightened children, and allowed everyone a good night’s sleep.

How about you? How have you weathered the nightmare ride?

January 23, 2007 Posted by | parenting, sleep | 21 Comments

My Quirky Boy

My quirky after-school boy, Sam… He’s polite, he’s soft-spoken, there’s not a hint of malice in him, but he is, in the words of my grandmother, an odd duck. I’m told he doesn’t have Asperger’s, but if he doesn’t, he’s withing spitting distance.

One day a while ago, I lost my temper. (I did, I really did! Not with the daycare kids, who were still napping, but with an adult who wasn’t even there at the time.) I did nothing more dramatic than bark a sincere “Jerk!” and bang my hand into the table, but the noise was explosive and the emotion strong. Particularly bad if you’re sitting at the table, quietly doing homework, as Sam was.

He jumped visibly, and I immediately apologized. He looked puzzled.
“Why did you say sorry?”
“Well, because I thought I’d frightened you when I did that.”
“Why would that frighten me?”
“When someone gets angry and makes a loud noise, sometimes other people find that frightening. It looked to me like you might have been scared when I did that.”
“I wasn’t scared.”
“How did you feel, then?”
“I felt like I did this (he repeats his startled hand gesture) and that I sat up straighter.”
“That’s what you did, Sam, and when people do that, it often means they’re feeling frightened, or at least startled.”
“So were you maybe startled?”
“No, I just did this (hand gesture again) and sat up straight.”

Okay, then.

Or how about this one?

Sam: “I think Emma is talented.”
Me: “You do? That’s a nice thing to say.”
Sam: “Yeah, because she plays the flute and stuff. I’m not so talented.”
Me: “Well, you don’t play the flute, but you have things you’re good at.”
Sam: “Yes, I’m good at basketball if there are no other kids around.”

(The irony here is that while he definitely does have strengths, areas of quite remarkable ability, basketball is absolutely not one of them! He’s physically ungainly, with an awkward, sort of sideways arrthymic run. He tends to duck away from an oncoming ball, and I have yet to see him get the ball remotely near the hoop – but he likes to try, and he takes satisfaction in his efforts – and at nine, that’ll do!)

But: “If there are no other kids around.”

Makes me grin.

January 22, 2007 Posted by | quirks and quirkiness | 4 Comments

SaBloBoMo – About Language

I’ve been bad, bad, bad at this book-a-day challenge! Sorry, Sassy!

Still, I do keep on reading! Can’t seem to break myself of the habit. Today’s book is one I hadn’t heard of till earlier this morning. (No, I haven’t finished it yet.)

A bit of background: Last Christmas, I was given “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” by Lynne Truss. I loved it, then passed it on to a fellow language-lover, my friend Bob. Being of the same mind on these things, or so we both thought, we recently launched into a series of conversations over our bi-weekly pint in a local pub, conversations that have probably been a bit of a surprise to both of us.

Now, I like language to be clear. There is a difference between ‘it’s’ and ‘its’, and I knew it when I was ten. It’s just NOT that complicated. And ‘then’? Don’t get me started on that one! There are TWO words, people, TWO! ‘Than’, and ‘then’. Two different words, each with its own, different meaning. Every time I see ‘then’ being used when ‘than’ was meant, I am just plain embarrassed for the writer. Just because we don’t manage to differentiate well between a short ‘a’ and a short ‘e’ in our speech on this continent doesn’t mean the spelling doesn’t convey different meanings. Yeesh…

Okay. So I have my stripe of linguist purist. But to me, language is for communicating meaning. If a change of vocabulary or usage enhances communication, it’s an enrichment; if a change hinders or diminishes communication, it’s an impoverishment. Simple, really, though there is room for lots of fun discussion. My sweetie and I had a lively half-hour chat on the validity of the current use of ‘focus’ as a synonym for ‘concentrate’, me in favour, he in opposition. (Yes, we do have these kinds of conversations: aren’t you jealous?)

I further believe – this also emerged in my conversation with Stephen this morning – that correct language is often dependent on context. U R OK 2 wrt lik ths if you are texting (now there’s a word that would make Bob’s skin crawl) a friend, but you’re not going to use that in a research paper.

Bob’s approach to language change is even simpler, however: Change is Bad. Linguistic innovation is always inferior to what preceded it.

Easy, huh??

So, when he emailed to tell me he had an article from a British newspaper to show me when we meet again on Tuesday, I knew I had to go in there armed to defend myself. Off I go a-googling this morning, starting with a site which Kat enjoys. From there I follow link after link, googling this and that, until I learn a few things.

I learn that Bob is a prescriptivist, while I am a descriptivist*. Cool, huh? Who knew? (For all my English degree, I have not a single linguistics course under my belt.) (*If you follow that link, you’ll have to scroll down to the section entitled “What is the difference between ‘prescriptivist’ and ‘descriptivist’?” It’s pretty funny.)

And finally, I stumbled across the book I’m (finally) going to mention!

The Fight for English: how language pundits ate, shot, and left, by David Crystal. Crystal, a “world authority on language” (another thing I learned only this morning!), has attended to the trend to “linguistic fundamentalism” with concern. This book is an exploration of the trend, for he believes it should be understood in order to be resisted, and in order that things of value within it be gleaned and used.

I’m on chapter five, so far, and loving it. It’s not as funny as Truss, but it’s a delight to read – clear, logical, instructive. Starting with Aelfric the Grammarian (c. 995), he follows the development of the language and the language squabbling, the jockeying for position and authority down through the centuries. Caxton has a lot to answer for in his jump-start of the Language Wars, poor fellow: all he was trying to do was use this great new invention, the printing press!

I’m not half-through yet, but I have all day Sunday. I am particularly looking forward to the chapters entitled “Change”, “Incorrectness”, “Context”, and “Future”.

I am so going to kick Bob’s ass on Tuesday.


January 20, 2007 Posted by | books, memes and quizzes | 17 Comments