It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Small Mystery of Life

“Here, May-wee. Gots batgahwees.”

“So I see. Where did you get the batteries, Nigel?”

“Gots batgahwees!”

“But where did they come from?”

“One-two-free batgawees!”

“Yes. I have one, two batteries. Did you find them on the floor?”

“Batgawees! Inna hand!”

“Yes, you put these batteries in my hand, didn’t you, lovie? And I guess I’ll never find out where they came from.”

Adam appears in the door.

“Hey, mom. Any idea why my calculator was under the dining room table?”

“Oh, I think maybe. Where was it supposed to be?”

“In my backpack.”

“Which was where?”

“In the front hall.”

“And where’s it supposed to be?”

“In my room. But, mom, I laid it down so the zips were all underneath and the frame was on top! The babies would have had to turn it over!!

I take his point. In that backpack, we have a calculus text (approx. 12 pounds), a chemistry text (10), biology (8), and English literature (8), plus assorted binders and educational paraphenalia. Shifting that thing when you weigh no more than 20 pounds yourself, would be no mean feat.

We check the front hall. Against all probability, the backpack lies belly-up. Having already learned the futility of trying to weasel information out of Nigel, I simply do the maternal and use this incident to remind Adam why his backpack is to proceed directly to his room after school. Adam, however, is curious, and decides (naively) to get to the bottom of this.

“Hey, Nigel. Did you open my backpack?”


“Yes, my backpack. Did you open it?”

“Open-a pack-pack!”

“Did you turn it over?”

“Turn-a pack-pack!”

“It’s a heavy backpack. How did you turn it over?”

“Pack-pack! Turn-a heavy pack-pack ovah!”

“Yes. DID you turn it over?”

“Pack-pack! Turn it over?”

“Hey, mom? Mom? Is he dodging the question, or does he just not get it?”

Yeah. The $64,000 question.

February 28, 2007 Posted by | Mischief, my kids, random and odd | 13 Comments


“HELLO, IS THAT MARY P?” Ouch. Lordy, this woman is loud.

“Yes, it is.” I move the phone a couple inches away from my stricken ear.


“Ah, yes.” I pull the phone another couple inches out. A loud mother is pretty likely to have a loud child.


Another couple inches. And can I really deal with this volume for the next three years?


My ears are still ringing. My arm is almost straight out. No, I can not.


I suppose I could prop the phone against the back of the couch… Or, I could just…

“I’m sorry, I’m fully booked for at least a year.”


“Sorry about that. Good luck!”



February 27, 2007 Posted by | daycare, parents | 5 Comments

Good Mommies, Strong Mommies

A Perfect Post – February 2007

Does anyone in this generation worry about being ladylike any more? Not that they should, mind you, I was just wondering. If the term is too old-fashioned for you, here’s how I remember it. (Not that I was ever restricted by it. Either I’m not that old, or my mother was too free-spirited. Maybe both.)

Anyway, at a certain time, girls were often encouraged to “Be a lady”, or to “be ladylike”. A “lady” is pretty and clean, modest and kind, prissy, precise, concerned with rules and appearances. How she ever managed to have children is beyond me. Laying there with your legs splayed for half the hospital to see? I mean, really… And let’s not even consider how you got pregnant in the first place…

Not everything about her is bad and wrong. Some of her traits – modesty, kindness – are wonderful. But the whole package as a way of life? She’s so limited!

I’d far rather be a woman, thanks. Women are not a neat and clean projection of non-threatening, sanifized femininity; they are whole people. A woman is comfortable in her person, her mind, her body, her sexuality, and quite willing to be unladylike when it suits. She can dress in heels to turn heads, she can lounge barefoot in grubby jeans. A lady avoids bodily fluids, and denies them when she can’t. Women have been known to take unseemly amounts of pleasure in certain types…

I see a similar duality between the images of motherhood. Many (most?) North American mothers seem to be striving to be good mommies. But you know what? Good Mommies are to motherhood what Ladies are to womanhood.

Let’s take a look at the Good Mommy, shall we?

The Good Mommy is kind and nurturing. The Good Mommy loves her children. The Good Mommy knows that her children have their little quirks – who doesn’t? – but they are at heart truly kind, sweet, loving, patient, smart little people. They are never rude, or selfish, they are only tired or hungry. They are never aggressive, they are only frustrated. They are never disrespectful, they are only confused. They are never enraged, only sad. Poor little mites!

Thus, she never gets exasperated with them. She’s never hurt by them. And she never, ever feels anger. Sometimes the children make Good Mommy sad, but she’s never outraged by them, she never feels a gut surge of “How dare you??”

Many Good Mommies might argue this. “What? Of course I know my child has his flaws! Look at those tantrums! Look at the way he hates to share! It keeps me up at night, worrying!”

Ah, but if I were to say that the child is being selfish? No, no, no, no, no. Good Mommies can’t label a behaviour in character terms. They say “She throws such awful tantrums.” And then follow up with, “It breaks my heart to see her so sad.”

Good Mommies make Mary very, very sad…

You see, Good Mommy is doing herself no favours. Perhaps more importantly, certainly more important from her perspective, she is doing her children no favours.

I recently read a blog in which a mother was expressing her remorse over her child’s tantrums. They happened so frequently, and it pained this Good Mommy so much to see her child in such distress. She was so sad, you see, but every time she offered comfort, the child responded with punches and kicks. This made Good Mommy even sadder. (I think, eventually, all Mommy’s “sadness” will give her an ulcer. Suppressed anger often does.)

Is it any surprise that, rather than having long since faded away now that the child is closing in on Junior Kindergarten, the tantrums are ongoing and getting worse? This child is learning that the tantrums are not her fault. The child is learning that mom is incapable of helping her control the rage – because she’s not angry, she’s only sad!

We need to ditch the Good Mommy, and proceed with a new mother image. How about the Strong Mommy?

The Strong Mommy is nurturing, but she also has a solid self-respect. Strong Mommy knows that her children, like every single member of the human race, are capable of kindness, tolerance, compassion, patience, and great good. They are also equally capable of unkindness, intolerance, selfishness, impatience, and great ill. Because they are human.

Children are human. They are not paragons. They are innocent, yes, but we all know innocence can be dangerous. Small children have to be watched very carefully around small pets – a four year old can, in total innocence, kill a hamster. Yes, she’d feel very badly after the fact – but the hamster probably feels worse… Innocence doesn’t prevent one from being selfish. In fact, I’d argue that it makes it more likely.

Strong Mommies see their children in all their varied humanity. They see the innocence, the wonder, the bright eyes, the humour, the dawning empathy… and they see selfishness and manipulativeness, the intolerance and aggression. They don’t feel the need to deny those traits, or to apologize for even admitting they’re there. She doesn’t blame herself for the negative traits, which are only human nature. Of course children are selfish from time to time! Who isn’t? They need to be taught to be unselfish (or kind, or patient, or whatever trait is at issue). They need to be taught to put other people’s needs first once in a while. (After they learn that other people have needs, that is.)

Strong Mommies can look at their petulant, sulking child and see it not as sadness to be forgiven and excused, but a normal expression of childish inflexibility and selfishness. If every negative behaviour is only ever explained away and excused, when and how will the child learn to control and overcome these tendencies? Strong Mommies, who see the traits with clear eyes are in a far better position to teach the child another, better way of responding.

Strong Mommies can, and do, let their self-esteem rise up and say, “Enough, you little so-and-so. Mommy is NOT your maid, nor your punching-bag, either.” She stands up for herself in full confidence that her needs matter, too. I love it when a mommy comes right out and unapologetically says, “He’s taking advantage and I’m not letting this continue one day longer.” “She’s capable of better, and I’m going to see she achieves it.”

And you know what? Your child will respect you, and be more secure because of it.

So, let’s ditch the Good Mommy, shall we, and embrace the Strong one itching to get out of those ladylike confines. Our children will be better off.

February 24, 2007 Posted by | aggression, controversy, Developmental stuff, individuality, manners, parenting, power struggle, socializing, tantrums | 48 Comments


Two o’clock. Naptime.

The house is tidy again, the floors clear, the table wiped down. The sun shines in through de-finger-printed windows, and the only sound in the room is the soft ticking of the clock, the ticketa-tack of the computer keys, and a low, gentle snore.


Yes. There is a child sleeping on the other couch. She shouldn’t be here. She was supposed to have been picked up between noon and twelve-thirty. They have a special outing planned. She was to be picked up right after lunch, so she could sleep in the car on the way to their outing. Her nap generally starts at 1:00.

Could I make sure she had a good lunch? (Of course. When don’t I?)
Oh, and could I have her in a fresh diaper, please? (Unnecessary even to ask. I always have them in fresh diapers when their parents are expected. I guess she thought all those fresh diapers baby’s been in every single afternoon for the past ten months have been one giant coincidence.)
I also always have them dressed in their outside gear if I know when the parent’s expected. Simpler for everyone. So don’t even ask.

Noon to twelve-thirty, I was told. But I know this mother. I put baby in a fresh diaper at 1:00. I put her in her outdoor gear at 1:15.

At 1:30, baby climbed up on the couch. And went directly to sleep.

I did not stop her. Mom wants baby to sleep in the car, she should arrive when she says she will.

She’s a lovely woman, smart, warm friendly, and completely in love with her child. I really like her. But she’s a terrible, terrible time manager. She always runs behind schedule. She’s reliably unreliable, so mostly I can work around the tardiness. Worse than the chronic lateness, though, is the poor communication. If you’re going to be late, you give a call. This has happened before, and there’s usually a long list of reasons why a call was impossible. I remain unconvinced. Anyone with a cell phone in a city can make a call at just about any time.

Why don’t I call her? She’s not at her desk. And it seems she doesn’t have her cell phone turned on…


February 23, 2007 Posted by | parents, the dark side | 12 Comments

Attention (hi!) Span? There’s (SMASH) nothing (hi!) wrong with (hi!) my attention (DATS MINE!) span.

“Hi!” Timmy’s bright eyes twinkle up at me. He’s the smilingest, sunniest, brightest little guy. Cute as a button, too. Reminds me a lot of the youngest Disney dwarf, Dopey. Particularly the grin and the ears.
“Hello, there!”
“Hi to you, too.”

Malli wanders by, humming a tuneless little ditty, a small blue plastic basket overflowing with big plastic blocks in her arms.


“I don’t think she’s listening to you, lovey.”

“Oh! Nigel! Please don’t stand on the plastic blocks, buddy. They will break.”
“Why?” He looks at his foot, lifts it off the block and onto the floor.
“The plastic blocks aren’t as strong as the wooden ones, and you’re a big boy. You’ll break them if you stand on them.”
“Never mind ‘why’. Just stay off the block.”
“Don’t say ‘why’. Say ‘Yes, Mary’.”
“Yef, Maywee.”
“Thank you.”

“Hi, Tims.”

CRASH! The oversized blocks pour from Malli’s basket and bounce across the floor. She grins, then squats down to put the blocks back into the basket.

“You like that word, don’t you, bud?”

Malli walks by with her refilled basket, humming that tuneless hum.
“Nigel! What did I say about those blocks?”
“Dey wiw bwake if I stan’on dem.”
“Exactly. Now put that foot back on the floor.”
“Thank you, Nigel. Now, come over here. I’m going to take the puzzles out. You want to do a puzzle?”
“Oh! Puzzoh!”
“Good man.”

CRASH! Malli has emptied the basket again in a different corner of the room.

“Hey there, Timmy.”
“You know any other words, Mr. Man?”
“Guess not.”

“Malli? You know what? Those are not your blocks. They are mine. I share them with you, so you can share them with Emily and Anna.”
“Hey, Tim. Malli, see what Emily and Anna are doing?”
“Puttin’ the box in the basket.”
“Yes. Putting the blocks in the basket, just like you! You know what I think? I think they’re helping you.”
Her brown eyes are dubious, but calm.
“You came up with a good game. Anna and Emily think so, too. Now they all like to play your good game. See? They almost have that basket full, now.”
“They putting all the box in my basket.”
“Yes, and then they’ll need to dump them out somewhere else. Where should they dump them?”
“I know! Can I help them?”
“Of course! Then you can all play that good game together!”

“You know, you really need to enrich your vocabulary, little man.”

February 22, 2007 Posted by | daycare, individuality, socializing | 11 Comments

Clutter and Sleep Poll

I was just reading an organizational blog where I came across the idea that children sleep better in an uncluttered room. Well. I have never heard of such a notion, and am not quite sure what to make of it, but I am curious, so…

I’m looking for your input. What do you think? Does the state of a child’s room have any bearing on how they sleep?

Let’s take a poll! Answer, if you will, these two questions about your child (or for each of your children).

1. Is your child’s room neat or sloppy?
2. How does he/she sleep?

February 21, 2007 Posted by | memes and quizzes, sleep | 30 Comments


Emma and I are taking an ASL course. Emma found a Basic Signs book around the house, and – how’s this for random? – her friend Lina had the same book lying around her house, as well! The girls started memorizing their way through the books, but it didn’t take them long to realize that you can’t learn to speak a language by memorizing a dictionary.

We can now spell our names. Heck, we can spell anything! But spelling… Well, no one wants to do that as a regular thing.

“Hey, honey,” says mom, to dad who is driving, “I’m not sure I’ll have time to make D-I-N-N-E-R. How about we stop at M-C-D-O-N-A-L-D-S?”

“It’s not exactly on our way. How about S-U-B-W-A-Y?”

I’ve done it, you’ve done it. It’s good for emergencies, but efficient? Not so much. Emma and I have sufficient signed words that we can communicate the basics. We’d not starve, and we’d always be able to find the toilet. But it’s very, very basic. I figure we’re at the level of the average, oh, 19-month-old.

Nigel (who is now 26 months old) speaks English as I can only dream of speaking ASL. But 19-month-old Anna? Anna, who is at the “telegraphing” stage of language development?* She and I are probably at the same level in our respective new languages. Witness her skill…

My sweetie is home sick. Not really, really ghastly ill, just weak and tired. Anna, however, doesn’t see a sick man, she sees a warm lap.

“Up! Up! Up!”

He’s in a bit of a zone, and doesn’t register. Anna picks a board book from the floor.

“Book! Book!”

He looks at her. “Yes, you have a book, don’t you?”

Yes, he is indeed a bit spacey today. Fatigue has fuddled his brain, made him a bit slow on the uptake. Anna gives him a sharp whap in the knee with the book. That should help him focus!

“Book! Book! Up! Up!”

“You want to come up? You want me to read you this book?”

“Up! Up!”

“You sure are hard to resist, pumpkin. Here you go.” They snuggle in for yet another read of “Max and Ruby and the Rainy Day”.

Gee. How long do you think it’ll be before I’m doing so well in my second language?
* I just googled “speech development toddlers telegraphing” to find a good link to define “telegraphing” – and the first hit was my very own blog. Heh.

February 20, 2007 Posted by | books, Developmental stuff | 13 Comments

Today’s Mystery… Updated and Revealed…


Here we have a sweet, quiet, apparently solemn little boy. Any guesses as to what he’s doing?

1. No, he’s not been sent to stand in the corner. This is not a punishment.
2. In fact, it’s entirely voluntary, and, appearances to the contrary, he’s quite happy.
3. He can continue this activity for up to an hour, occasionally a little more.

I leave it with you…
Karly guessed it, and ktdjrn found the cheat —

The boy is dancing. He requests music – specifically The Beatles – then stands immediately in front of a speaker, a solemn look on his face as he sways from side to side, staring into space.

He will do this for the entire length of the disk – so, an hour, hour and a quarter. It’s really quite amazing.

Sway, sway, solemnly sway…

February 16, 2007 Posted by | individuality, memes and quizzes, quirks and quirkiness | 16 Comments

Right on Schedule: February Cabin Fever

Our first significant winter storm hit last night.

We got some snow overnight. Not a whole lot – about 10 cm, I think. (Just shy of four inches.) Enough to snarl and slow traffic, but not enough to close roads or schools.

It did mean, though, that I’d need to shovel before the parents arrived. The ploughs had been by in the night – bless them! – but the result is a metre-high bank separating sidewalk from the street. Can’t have people trying to scale that with a baby in their arms. So out I go —

— and my LORD, the wind. Straight out of the west. (North and west, or any combination thereof, are nasty, nasty winds.) By the time I’d hacked a narrow path through the bank, my fingertips were burning with cold and my face bright red. And not through exertion.

Came in and checked the weather icon on my laptop. Temperature, -22; winds gusting to 50km, making for a windchill of -35.*

Guess we’ll be staying in. Again. For the tenth straight day. That’s TWO SOLID WEEKS of being indoors. Housebound. With a two-year-old (sometimes two of them) and three 18-month-olds. Sigh.

In fact, the kids are managing just fine. The vast vistas of my small house suffice for their short legs. After pounding through the living room to the dining room, rounding the corner to the front hall so as to enter the living room and pound down to the dining room… After doing that, oh THREE HUNDRED TIMES in a morning, they’ve had lots and lots and lots of exercise.

But me? I have to get out. I think I’ll get Emma to mind the fort during afternoon naps, so I can get out, burn off some steam, get some fresh air and a little sunlight (assuming some happens). Yes, indeed. I’m going to SHOVEL THE DRIVE!!

You takes your entertainment where you finds it in this job.

* That’d be -8F, 31 mph, and -31F respectively.

February 15, 2007 Posted by | Ottawa, the dark side | 12 Comments

Valentine Craft

The tots have made a bunch of Valentine crafts over the past week. I’ve sent home pink blobs of paint (fingerpaint on heart-shaped waxed paper), pink blobs of paper on pipecleaners (supposedly flowers), pink blobs of sparkles (because a craft isn’t a craft if there aren’t sparkles to eat!!) The kids have enjoyed themselves greatly, and the parents have graciously ooh-ed and ah-ed over their pink blobs.

Today is Valentine’s Day, though, and those gracious parents deserve something a little more festive and a little less amoebic. So – Valentine sun-catchers!

First you pick some old crayons in appropriate colours. We used red, pink, and yellow. Grate them onto wax paper. (They get filled with static, and cling like mad – to your hands, your shirt, the paper. They leap and dance when your hand nears. Very funny.)
Take a piece of wax paper. Ours were about six inches wide and the length of the roll. Place it on top of a section of newspaper on your kitchen counter. Fold the wax paper in half.

Sprinkle a little grated crayon onto half the wax paper. Don’t be too liberal in your sprinkling: too much crayon, and the light won’t shine through.

Fold the other half of the wax paper over the crayon bits. Cover with a sheet of newspaper. (This protects your iron from the wax of the paper, and from the wax should any seep out from between the two layers of waxed paper.)

Gently press with an iron set on delicate. If you simply press, the wax will melt in place. If you slide the iron around, the wax will swirl a bit. Totally up to you.
Voila! Festive melted crayon! (I know, I know, it’s very blob-like. Bear with me.)
Now for the frame. Cut yourself a heart from a piece of construction paper. Do it with the paper folded over, so you get two hearts. Then cut the centres out, so you get two heart-shaped frames:
Open the frames, and place one onto the wax paper-crayon-blob. Trace around the outside edge.

Cut the wax paper just inside the traced heart so you get a heart that fits the frame. Glue frames to the heart, one on each side.
Punch a hole through the heart, string with festive ribbon, and hang in a window! Ta-dah!!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 14, 2007 Posted by | crafts, holidays | 12 Comments