It’s Not All Mary Poppins


I haven’t brought you on an outing lately. Time for a trip with Mary.

Everything is fascinating when you’re almost two years old! Why are there holes in the old stone fence? What can you see though them???
THIS, as it happens. Well worth the look. (Though given the fence is only, oh, four feet high, I prefer to lean on the railing and look over.) These locks are part of the Rideau Waterway, joining the Ottawa River, which you can see at the far end of this picture, to (eventually) Kingston. They are old by North American standards, and are manual – on any summer day, you will see the attendants cranking the gates open and closed.

Lots of fun. Today, though, no boats. The lower floor of that building on your right is the Museum of Photography. Those two buildings on the left? The first one is (I believe) the lockmaster’s. I could be wrong… The little building further down and only partially visible is the Bytown Museum. (Ottawa was originally called Bytown.)
A little further down that same street, Mary and the masses pass through these imposing gates. Where are we going?
Here! Parliament Hill, seat of Canadian Government. What do four toddlers do with all that history? Not much. Mostly they roll about on the lawn, eat snack (strawberries purchased at the market just minutes before – I can tell you about that in another post), and screech at various vehicles. The lawnmower, the street-sweeper, an airplane overhead.
On the way out, we checked out the Centennial Flame. The picture doesn’t make it entirely clear, but what you’re seeing is a fountain, a sheet of water running down the sloped sides of that centre bit, out of which flames continually flicker. Is very cool, and endlessly entertaining for children.

A day well spent. I love this city!

June 28, 2007 Posted by | Ottawa, outings | 13 Comments

Recalibration Time

The two weeks without a computer gave me an opportunity to reorganize my time in a way that I’m really enjoying. I have a whole life outside this screen – imagine that! – and there are things I need to/want to/should be doing that I could do much better if I didn’t spend so much time in front of it.

Not to worry! I am not quitting blogging.

I am, however, scaling back a bit. Henceforth, you can expect posts on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Nothing says I mightn’t toss off a post on another day, but these are my official blogging days.

Not to worry again – THIS is not today’s post. I have one planned for this afternoon, with pictures, and everything. Mostly pictures, really.

See you later!

June 28, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Spinning Mary’s Head Right Around

“Nigel, come out from behind the curtains, please.”

Wow. That Quiet Stair sure has made an impact on the boy.

“Nigel, buddy, that’s Anna’s water. Give it to Anna, please.”

Which is odd, given that he’s sat on it maybe three times in the past month.

“Hey, Nigel. Timmy doesn’t like that. Let go of his shirt, please.”

For no more than ninety seconds each time. Two minutes, tops.

“Nigel, please stop banging the block on the table. It’s hurting my ears.”

The boy’s obsessed…

“Nigel, time to put that book away in the basket.”


“Nigel. Nigel, did I say anything about the Quiet Stair?”


“Nigel! Nigel, listen to me.”


“Nigel, I’m NOT sending you to the Quiet Stair. I just want you to put the book away.”


“Nigel, honey, all you have to do is put the book in the basket, that’s all.”


“Nigel. Look at me. Book.In.Basket. Now.”


NIGEL! Nigel, if you don’t stop all that silly yelling, you WILL go on the quiet stair. Enough!”

“I go onna stair?”

“If you keep yelling about it, yes, you will. Or, you can just put the book in the basket.”


He trots over to the book, picks it up from the floor, and drops it in the basket.

And then goes and sits on the quiet stair…

June 26, 2007 Posted by | individuality, Nigel, quirks and quirkiness | 13 Comments

Shades of Hannibal


Seen it before, deal with it, see it no more. I’ve been through this loop any number of times.

This is a new group of kids. And we have developed a biter. Timmy. He gnawed up poor little Emily’s arm the other day when they were playing behind the couch.

Timmy is no longer allowed to play behind the couch.

The biting doesn’t particularly bother me. We can deal with biting. I’m keeping a sharp eye on the boy, and so far he hasn’t managed to make dental contact with any of the others since poor Emily. Not to say he hasn’t tried, mind you, but we’re making behavioural headway, and even the attempts are diminishing in frequency.

Nope, the biting in and of itself is not earth-shattering. No, it’s Timmy. You see, the the thing is… before he bites?

He licks his lips.


June 25, 2007 Posted by | aggression, eeewww, health and safety, Timmy | 10 Comments

I’m not so happy today…

My computer is on its way out. The monitor goes mental after a few minutes’ use. Thanks to my computer-savvy son, I know why this is happening, but, sadly, there’s not much that can be done about it. Well, there is, if I wanted to spend half what the thing is worth getting it fixed.

Which I don’t.

(Even as I type, the top half of my screen is waving madly to and fro. I’m getting motion sick here…) I will do my best, but blogging has suddenly become much, much less accessible. It could be a while before it is. Damn.

What I want is a new laptop. What I don’t have is the money for one.


June 13, 2007 Posted by | the dark side | 14 Comments

Anna’s Words

Anna is having her vocabulary explosion.

I love it when this happens.

Almost every child has a window in which their speech takes a qualitative, huge, astonishing leap forward. Even though I’ve seen it dozens of times over the years, I still watch in awe when it happens. A vocabulary increases by 50, 75, 100% in a month. Words pop out of nowhere. Words, words, words. It’s lovely. (When does it happen? It varies hugely. For some, it’s as early as 11 or 12 months; for others, it’s a full year later. For most, it’s between 15 and 19 months. But it almost always happens.)

(And when it doesn’t, it’s generally because the child has just accrued the language in a steady, consistent way. No striking developmental leap, but no lag either. Not to worry!)

Now, different children have different motivators for language. Language development is instinctive in humans, yes, but different children latch on to it for different reasons. For some, language is a tool to get what they want. “Hey! I make THIS noise, and Mommy does THAT! Wow!!” For some, it’s a toy for their own amusement. They chatter to themselves all day long. For some, language is for getting attention. For some, language is about communication.

Anna is one of the latter. Above all its many other attractions, Anna loves language because it causes interaction, it creates contact, it communicates with another person.

“Mawee?” Anna stands in front of the speaker in the livingroom. “Mawee, mufic!”

“Yes, there’s music coming out of there, isn’t there? Nice music.”

Anna’s face crinkles in delight. One of her beyond-adorable husky little chortles breaks from her throat.

“Nife mufic.”

We grin in mutual comprehension.

We are at the table, messing about with bits of coloured paper. Anna is very fond of ballpoint pens these days, and will spend inordinate amounts of time making scribbles on paper. Scribble, scribble, scribble. In 45 minutes of careful effort, Anna will cover a paper with tiny scribbles, swooping scribbles, little zig-zags, blots, and big sweeps of pen. It’s absorbing work.

She holds her paper up.


“Yes, you have a piece of paper. It’s blue. You have a piece of blue paper, with lots and lots of scribbles all over it.”

“Boo paper! Has boo paper.”

“Indeed you do.”

“I make a crap.”

Brief pause. That’s not what it sounds like, obviously. She does not think her scribbles are crap. (And no, it doesn’t refer to any diaper activity. We don’t tend to use that slang for that substance in this part of the country.)

“What did you make?”

Anna waves her paper around. “My crap! See? My crap?”

Ah. Of course. I get it. (Do you?) I respond appropriately. Once again we have mutual comprehension. More smiling.

Communication is a wonderful thing.

June 12, 2007 Posted by | Anna, Developmental stuff | 18 Comments

Warring Agendas…

Nigel sits on the Quiet Stair.

Nigel has been compulsively, persistently, un-deter-ably climbing on the arms of the couch. The issue is not the climbing; my furniture isn’t so delicate that it can’t be clambered over. The problem is the boy. Nigel doesn’t merely scramble over the arm and plop onto the cushions. Oh, no. Nigel climbs up and stands, small arms waving, chubby toes gripping and releasing the curved arm of the couch, body wavering, teetering on the brink of disaster. This has been going on for the better part of a week, despite my persistent and unremitting warnings that he will fall and hurt himself, despite my unwavering response of lifting him down with a stern word.

Today, the little monkey managed to make a bridge of himself between arm of couch and neighbouring end table, his feet on the arm, his hands on the table. Had he been arched so that his wee butt was in the air, he’d have been safe, but no. Somehow or other he managed to do this backward, his belly facing up. Can you picture this? His arms are reaching behind him to the table, his feet on the arm of the couch. He’s kind of doing a crab-walk between couch and table, suspended, with no way to get out of this position but to fall.

When I happened upon him, he was just starting to grunt a little with the strain.

I considered letting nature take its course.

WHAT?!?! You would LET a child in your care hurt himself?

Yes, indeedy. He’d been repeatedly warned and redirected, but my warnings obviously had no reality to him. A small tumble might bring the reality home. (I’m not cruel. I wouldn’t laugh.) (Out loud.) And he would get a cuddle along with his “now you know why I said not to do that” debrief.

Nor am I foolhardy. (Unlike Nigel!) Lucky for the boy, he has me evaluating the risk for him. Left to his own devices, he’d have soon lost the strength to maintain that position, and would almost certainly have given his head a nasty wallop on the end table before landing on the floor. The drop to the floor was an acceptable risk; the blow to the head was not, so Mary rescued him.

Well, I rescued him after waiting just a moment, waiting for the look of alarm cross his face. I wanted to see if he would register the danger he was in. Seems he did. Only then did I rescue him, and reinforced what he now knew for himself – that climbing on the arm is dangerous – and a little scary. (Only exactly what I’d been saying for a week, but now he gets it!)

I rescued him.

And plopped him summarily on the Quiet Stair. Where he sniffled in self-pity, and, I’m hoping, a little genuine alarm at how close he came to injury.

What? Two punishments for one offense? Well, yes. For three reasons: first, I’m really tired of this behaviour, and want it to STOP, before he does hurt himself. Second, the scare he got wasn’t a punishment, only a scare. He understands the reasoning for my rule a little better now, but he still broke a rule/disobeyed me. But most importantly, because the Quiet Stair has always been the consequence for this behaviour. Just because he’s experienced a little reality check doesn’t change this. So, yes, the Quiet Stair after the (almost) Natural Consequence.

I haven’t used the Quiet Stair much with this group yet, though, so the protocol is not clear to the others. Nigel knows the expectations (as the oldest, and the most resolute limit-tester, he has the most experience with it), but the others are not so clear.

Compassionate Anna, hearing Nigel’s sniffles, trots over to give him a hug. I shoo her away.

“Nigel is on the Quiet Stair, lovie. He must sit there by himself.”

Behind me, Malli hands Nigel a book through the stair railings.

“No, Malli. No toys on the Quiet Stair.”

Emily toddles toward Nigel, a soft toy in her hand.

Oh, couldn’t it just melt you? All this compassion! All this empathy! What to do? One doesn’t want to undermine the effectiveness of the consequence, but neither does one want to discourage all these noble sentiments in the others. (Bad timing on the noble sentiments, guys!)

“Oh, you guys! Isn’t that nice? You can see Nigel is sad, and you want to make him feel better! What good friends you are! I tell you what. Nigel has to finish sitting on the Quiet Stair right now. Let’s put these toys [I take them gently from the children] right here on the couch [placed so that Nigel can see them from where he sits], and we will read the book together. Nigel needs a little more time to remember that he is not to stand on the couch. [Meaningful stare at Nigel.] When we’ve finished the book, Nigel can come off and share with us. How’s that?”

How’d I do?

1. Empathy encouraged. (check)
2. Compassion encouraged. (check)
3. Discipline maintained. (check)
4. Problem behaviour identified so children understand the reason for consequence. (check)
5. Consequence reinforced. (check)

Not bad, if I do say so myself.

Oh, and

6. Nigel will never again stand on the arm of the couch.

Bwah-hahahahahahaaaa…. I kill myself….

June 11, 2007 Posted by | Anna, Emily, health and safety, Malli, Nigel, parenting, power struggle, socializing | 7 Comments

Interview Question Number 1: Parenting Goal

1. Describe a parenting goal that ought to be universal. No matter what part of the world you live in, regardless of your worldview or socio-economic status, this is a goal that all parents share in common — though they may never have thought about it.

There are so many good values that could be universal: kindness, creativity, consideration, tolerance, respect, courage of your convictions, respect for wisdom… These, however, are too specific. For a universal parenting goal, we need something more…universal…in scope.

When we embark on any project, we are advised to keep the goal in mind. If it’s a particularly large and complex project, there will be subgoals, steps along the way to the end. But never must you lose sight of the end goal, or you will be bogged down in trivialities, distracted, and discouraged long before you achieve it.

Which is why I decided on this nugget of parenting wisdom as my universal:

When we are blessed with a child, we must never forget that we are raising an adult, not a child. Yes, you have a child at first. However, the goal of this whole endeavor is to provide a fully-functioning, emotionally healthy, responsible and giving adult citizen of this planet.

Thus, in everything we do, we need to keep the long view in mind. Of course, we all succumb to the convenience of expediency once in a while. Now and then, we give in to a tantrum, we bribe bad manners, we turn a blind eye to sibling bullying. Now and then, we take the short view. But in general, we need always to be aware that this tiny person is another ADULT in the making. Which traits do you wish to encourage? Which traits need strengthening? Which need to be channelled into more appropriate expression? Which need to be minimized? What kind of adult human can you encourage and mold from the raw materials in your child?

Each culture could apply this principle in ways appropriate to the strengths and weaknesses of their society. Some cultures do a superb job of imbuing their children with the community values of sharing and compassion, but perhaps need more people who can stand up and make change happen.

In North American society, I think we manage to create individuals without difficulty. It’s a strength of ours. However, the balancing weakness is that too often individual self-esteem takes precedence over consideration and deferred gratification. We focus our efforts on creating kids with strong self-esteem. We praise, we encourage, we minimize obstacles.

Too much of this leads to demanding children with a sense of entitlement. They deserve all those goodies, and they deserve them now, and who are you to deny them? A fond and indulgent parent might find their three-year-old’s indignation at being thwarted cute, or, less delusionally, may opt to turn a blind eye, assuming the tot will outgrow it. They won’t, you know. Not without guidance and direction. Such guidance and direction will be vehemently resisted by a spirited child, but guide and direct you must. The knee-jerk anger at not getting one’s way may be tolerable (barely) in a three-year-old, but it’ll be distinctly unappealing in a 12-year-old, and in a 25-year-old? Frightening.

The entitled, impatient, selfish adult is an example of this idea in practice, but only one example of many.

The point is, parents help create the 25-year-old, whether he or she is kind, giving, strong, loving and supportive; or petulant, demanding, aggressive, ungrateful and just plain unpleasant to be around.

So. Never forget. That adorable child in your life? One day – and when it comes, you’ll be startled by how fast it got here! – one day, that child will be an ADULT.

You are in the business of raising that adult. The adult is your goal.

June 9, 2007 Posted by | individuality, memes and quizzes, parenting, socializing | 13 Comments

Ten Things I Learned from Homeschooling

Stolen from Sheri.

I homeschooled each of my three kids until they were in fourth or fifth grade (ten years old or thereabouts); I’ve homeschooled Emma this year. She has decided to go back for next year. This is fine with me. I am not anti-institutional school, I just don’t believe it’s the only, or even the best, venue for learning. Emma had her reasons for taking a year off institutional school; she has her reasons for deciding to go back.

What have I learned?

1. Education is something you do for yourself, not something that is done to you.

2. Thus, education is in the child’s hands. We assist. They learn.

3. Thus, a good education doesn’t require a lot of direct teaching. Put the child in the way of all the fascinating stuff there is to know, and they will want to know it, and will seek it out!*

4. The “Real World” is where you do your real living. (Am I the only one who appreciates the irony that those who say children need to be “out there in the Real World” (by which they mean school) are the very same people who grumble that recent graduates have no idea of how things work in the Real World?)

5. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time to get a good education. (Certainly not six hours a day.)

6. Your every waking minute is part of your education.

7. A whole lot of learning goes on when you’re “doing nothing”.

And I think that’s it. Guess I don’t have ten. Which leads me to my eighth and final Top Ten:

8. You don’t always have to follow the rules!
*Unless they’ve been poisoned by the anti-learning atmosphere pervasive in every school I’ve ever known. Which atmosphere, I hasten to add, is not the fault of the teachers, but generally of the other students. (So much for the much-vaunted socialization value of schools…) If you decide to pull your child from school to educate them at home, you often have to allow for a six-month detoxifying time in which they do nothing overtly ‘educational’ at all, before they will grow to see learning as a positive, fun, vibrant thing.

June 8, 2007 Posted by | my kids | 11 Comments

Endless Loop

You know how sometimes you can be ten minutes into something before it occurs to you how goofy it is?

I have two children in front of me. Nigel, who needs to get his shoes on, and Emily, who needs her coat zipped. For this operation, Nigel needs to sit, and Emily needs to stand. (Emily’s very round belly precludes you zipping her coat when she sits – you can’t find the toggle under the curve!)

I have the bottom of each half of Emily’s zipper in my hands. I will do Nigel’s shoes next. First he needs to take his slippers off.

“Nigel, lovie. Sit down, please.”
Nigel sits down. Emily sits down. Now I can’t find the zipper.

“Hey, Miss Moo. Stand up.”
Emily stands. Nigel stands.

“No, Nigel. You need to take those slippers off. Sit down.”
Nigel sits. Emily sits. Damn! I just got the tab into the zipper! Now I’ve lost it.

“Emily, lovie. Stand up, please.”
Emily stands. Nigel stands.

“Nigel, for goodness’ sake! I was talking to Emily! Sit down!”
Nigel sits. Emily sits.

“Emily, I can’t get the zipper on if you’re sitting. Please, stand up.”
Emily stands. Nigel stands.

Help! I’m trapped in an endless loop!
You know, this is very silly. I think we can stop this now…

I ignore Nigel. Zip up Emily’s coat.
“Nigel, time to take those slippers off. Sit down, please.”

Nigel sits.

Emily sits.


June 7, 2007 Posted by | Emily, Nigel, peer pressure | 10 Comments