It’s Not All Mary Poppins

The eternal quest

I’m not the most methodical of people. Well, in some respects I am: with children’s behaviours, I tend to have a pretty well-trodden path of responses and counter-responses charted out in my head. But my my own personal habits? I have general patterns, but nothing you could set a clock by.

I get up between 4:45 and 6:00. Between then, and when my first child arrives at 7:30, there are a bunch of things I tend to do: read for half an hour, plot out my day’s activities, maybe give a thought to dinner. I’ll throw in a load of laundry most days. Chat with my youngest as she gets ready for school. I always give the bathroom a quick wipedown and often put away the dishes that were washed the evening before, if they are still in the drying rack. Empty the blue boxes under the kitchen sink into the larger bins in the back porch.

And at the end of that, I always, always make myself a cup of tea, the idea being a quiet 15 minutes before the onslaught of the slavering hordes.

7:40. I sit down with my tea. It’s a little late, but the earliest-arrival doesn’t come on Mondays. I’ve probably got 15 minutes.

7:42 The first child arrives. We greet, chat, exchange information while peeling the snowsuit, boots, hat, scarf, and mitts off the child.

7:58 Take sip of tea. Ugh. Pop tea in microwave. Recover now steaming tea.

8:00 Greet second child, who has arrived with a book of nursery rhymes.

8:12 Sip. Ugh. Nuke tea.

8:14 Arrange self on the couch with two tots to read book.

8:18 Third child arrives, dropped by a dad this time, so deposit takes 93 seconds. Return to nursery rhyme book.

8:37 Sip. Ugh. Nuke.

8:41 We start our Spring Project, planting beans in clear plastic cups so we can watch them grow. We place the planted beans on a low window ledge and gaze with pride on our accomplishment. Well, some of us do:

“They’re not growing!”

9:03 Sip. Ugh. Nuke.

9:06 Settle tots down to free play: hobby horses, castle, blocks, cars, teddy bears …

9:10 Sip. Ah. Very nice. Second sip. “Mary! Anna grabbed my cheeks!” Conversation re: using words and hands being for hugging. Standard stuff. Then, since I’m right there in the construction zone, we have to see whether we can build a house big enough for the smallest teddy, right?

9:37 Sip. Ugh. Nuke.

9:40 Noting the time on the microwave, I set about preparing snack: fruit to be dipped in plain yoghurt. This will take about 4 minutes – the tea will be hot when I’m done, and I can sip while they snack!

Emily and Timmy decide they would like to “help”.

10:00 Snack is delivered to the table, ringed by famished, bibbed toddlers.

10:20 Sip. Ugh. Nu –no. It’s gone! No steaming cup of comfort for me. My caffeine comes in tepid dribs, little slurps of chalky bitterness, a dozen times a day. And for this, environmental me nuked the thing every time?

Oh, the shame.

March 31, 2008 Posted by | eeewww, the dark side | , , | 9 Comments

Earth Hour, my house


A quiet, peaceful hour, spent talking and reading, mostly. A normal evening in this household, in other words, only dimmer. How was yours?

March 29, 2008 Posted by | commemoration, my kids, Ottawa | , | 11 Comments

Reminder: Earth Hour happens tomorrow

Unplugging the Planet

Have you signed up yet?

March 28, 2008 Posted by | Canada, health and safety, Ottawa | | 3 Comments

Hello, Operator?

“Hi! Hi, daddy!” Anna has a hot-pink dollar-store cell phone pressed against her ear. “My daddy’s on the phone!” she informs us, then returns to her “conversation”. “Yeah, hi. I’m playin’. I’m being a doctor. Yeah, uh-huh… Can I have your phone number? Is mommy at home yet? You makin’ dinner, daddy? What are havin’ for dinner, daddy? Yeah, yeah, uh-huh…”

She does that extremely well, you know. Not many two-year-olds think to add pauses and “uh-huh’s” for the other party’s contribution.

Next call is to her mommy. “Hello, mommy? You are at work? Yeah? You are busy? All right! Yeah, okay. Daddy is makin’ dinner, mommy. We are havin’ brocolli and sushi! Bye, mommy!”

Nigel wants in on the phone action.

“Hello, hi. Hi, mummy! You bringing me something? Bye-bye!”
“Hello, daddy! You bringing me something? Bye-bye!”
“Hello, Uncle Chris! You bringing me something? Bye-bye!”
“Hello, Sophia! You bringing me something? Bye-bye!”

Born to be a lobbyist, this boy. He lives in the right city, too.

Timmy, who’s been watching Emily ride one of the hobby-horses, patiently waiting his turn — Now, now! Stop snickering back there! He’s been waiting two whole minutes and hasn’t grabbed or cried ONCE! That’s patient! But Emily seems to be intent on playing a while longer, so, sensible seeking distraction, he takes a turn with the phone.

“I tah, tah, tah, tah, tah, tahk… brooooother!” he informs Nigel. “Hi, hi, hi, hi brother!”

Yes, we have a little stutterer in our midst. Not uncommon at this age, and more common in boys than girls, Timmy’s stutter is pronounced enough that he’s on a wait list for diagnosis with an eye to possible therapy.

“My brother’s name is George.”
“Juh, juh, juh, juh George! Hi, Juh, juh, juh — OH! HORSIE!!!” The cell phone hits the floor as he scrambles for the hobby horse finally abandoned by Emily.

Emily cradles the phone next to her round pink cheek. “Hello! Hello! Hello?” She holds it to me, a frown on her wee face. “Is no one there! Is no one there onna phone!”

Hm. Does she not understand the game, or is she pretending a bad connection? My slight hestitation as I consider how to respond, is more time than Anna requires to take action. She trots over and takes the phone from Emily with an air of great confidence. “You want to talk to your mommy?” she enquires, kindly helpful.

“Yes, my mommy and my baby bruzzer.”

“Okay!” Anna punches at the ‘buttons’, plastic stickers on the pink flip. “Is ringing!” she informs Emily. “Is ringing. Oh, Hello? Hello, Emily’s mommy? Is Emily’s mommy? Yes?” She holds the phone out to Emily. “Is your mommy onna phone now.”

Emily takes the phone. “Mommy? Mommy! Hi, Mommy!” Her face beams. Problem solved. It just took a little expert assistance.

March 27, 2008 Posted by | Anna, socializing, the things they say! | 5 Comments

It’s a perk of parenting

“Four crackers for you! And one, two, three, four pieces of cheese! ”
“One … two… three… four crackers for you! And one, two, three, four pieces of cheese.”
“One … two… three… four crackers for you! And one, two, three, four pieces of cheese.

Mary makes her way around the table, dispensing snack. You may not have noticed this, it’s pretty subtle, but we’re having crackers. And cheese. Four pieces each.

“Mary, are we have crackers for snack?” (Told you it was subtle.)

“No, we’re having squirrel.” Said with a warm, supportive smile. I am not sneering at the child, but you know, as with any job, you take your entertainment where you find it.

“Oh, okay.” (Which only encourages me.)

My son, loitering in the dining room before heading out to work, chortles. “You know,” he observes, “I think that will be one of the fun things about being a parent. You could just randomly re-label something, and always call it that, and they’d never know the difference.”

“Assuming you could get your wife to go along with the joke, of course.”

He doesn’t respond to my corollary, too caught up in the pictures in his imagination. “Can you see him, coming home from preschool?

‘What’d you have for lunch today, son?’


Son’s laughter bursts from his throat. The children, with no idea of the joke, are caught up in the enthusiasm. Deep man-guffaws and baby giggles bounce around the room.

Oh, yeah. He’s going to make a great dad.

March 26, 2008 Posted by | food, Mischief, my kids | 8 Comments

How do you spell “Exciting”?

“I’ll be picking her up at 12:30 today. She has a dentist appointment at 1:00.”

I look up from our joint project of unpacking the child from her snow gear. “Is this her first visit?”

“Yes. It should be exciting.” She gives her little girl a quick hug and a beaming smile. She really is excited, the crazy woman. Not “crazy” because she’s excited about the dentist. One of my kids just loooved the dentist when he was little, and I wasn’t about to pollute his enthusiasm with my marginally less sunny attitude. So, sure, she’s exuding enthusiasm. She is being a Good Mommy.

No, it’s the timing. 1:00 p.m.? One in the afternoon? It’s a sign of my true professionalism (and basic kindness) that I did not allow my jaw to drop to the floor.

Oh, it’ll be ‘exciting’, all right, taking a two-year-old to her very first dental visit, scheduled at THE VERY BEGINNING OF NAP TIME. What could be more fun than taking a sleep-deprived two-year-old to the dentist for the very first time? ‘Exciting’ is one word for it.

You’ve got to wonder what the thought process was that resulted in that lunatic decision. Mom has morning meetings? Reschedule them! It was the only dentist visit available for the next month? SO? I’d wait a whole lot longer than a month to avoid taking a sleep-deprived two-year-old to see the dentist. For her very first visit.

Were I a dentist, I think I’d have a policy: No toddler appointments between the hours of noon and four. Is this a family dentist, or a pediatric dentist, I wonder? And if she specializes, doesn’t she know better than that?

Oh, but I forget: she has a business to run. If she specializes in children, she can’t refuse appointments for half the day to a large section of her clientele. She has a business to run, AND she has access to sedatives. Lots and lots of calming, soothing drugs.

I’m thinking mom will need them before this is over.

March 25, 2008 Posted by | health and safety, parents | 7 Comments

Can’t think of a better way to start the week!

Who’s enjoying this more, do you think, Ethan or his daddy?

March 24, 2008 Posted by | the cuteness! | | 12 Comments

Bet you didn’t know THIS…


I’ve got a new post up over at Mid-Century Modern Moms. All you ever wanted to know about your child’s rat. And then some.

March 22, 2008 Posted by | eeewww, Mid-Century Modern Moms, my kids | 1 Comment


Remember this? My street, yesterday morning? When the machines had NOT come?

But hark! Something has captured the tots’ attention! Could it be….???

Yes! Same vista, seven hours after the first picture. (Two hours after the machines arrived.)

Ladies and gentlemen, we have STREET. (And SIDEWALKS!!)

March 20, 2008 Posted by | Ottawa | 9 Comments


This is my street.

The signs went in our snowbanks yesterday, bringing joy to the hearts of the householders. Ours is “one of the worst streets in the city.” I have this on good authority: a cabbie (who would know better?). His jaw dropped when he turned onto my block. His quiet “fuuuuck” was tinged with awe. He proceeded gamely, though, wincing as the belly of his car scraaaaped along the crusted snow.

Our “street” consists these days of two narrow, ice-lined tenches. You don’t really need to steer: the trenches grab your tires and you go.

You go slowly, because a bump could remove something from the bottom of the car, or at least pierce it. With the belly of your car no more than a couple of centimetres off the icy surface between the two trenches, and often actually scraping it, there is not much room for error.

But the signs went up yesterday: “No parking on the street from 0700 to 1900”. Not that we’ve been able to park in the street for a month now. The street is one lane. Two ruts in the snow. You “park” on the street, you block the entire thing.

Two cars meet, someone has to pull into a drive to let the other guy pass. And getting out of the drive, with the street so narrowed by enormous snowbanks, means that there isn’t sufficient turning radius simply to back out your car. It always involves at least a three-point back-and-forth, and sometimes more, manoeuvring your way out.

The clear area outside my house is about six square feet. Oh, so if some anal-retentive stickler for accuracy came with a tape measure, you’d probably find it was marginally bigger — but it feels like six feet! The driveway has been full of a neighbour’s car. The sidewalk has been ploughed, but insufficient to the demands, and most people’s houses have little more than a narrow footpath between looming banks. (Mine is better. I am originally from Toronto, where householders are expected to shovel their own walk.) The road is, as I’ve said, two icy ruts in the rock-hard snow.


There is nowhere to play! The snowbanks have been carved into walls by the passing sidewalk plows, and offer no purchase for scaling. I’ve taken them out, but with six square feet of snowy cage to play in, I’m not about to arm them with the ever-thrilling snow shovels (aka the “let-me-poke-your-eye-out” sticks). In six square feet there isn’t much room to get the blood flowing to keep their little selves warm, and within five minutes they’re bored and complaining of the cold. Twenty minutes dressing five little bodies for five minutes of standing-around-in-the-cold-being-bored hardly seems worth the effort.

Makes for a quiet street.

But the signs went up yesterday!! I’ve described the procedure before. (NB. If you don’t know what “procedure” I’m talking about, you MUST go follow that link. Particularly if you or your child loves heavy machinery.) It’s noisy, it makes the street impassible while it’s happening … but at the end of it, we will go from two ruts between snowbanks to a street wide enough for two cars! At the same time! And sidewalks, too!!! The sense of glorious SPACE you get after they’ve been through is indescribable to someone who hasn’t experienced it. Or lived for a month in a six-by-ten box.

The signs went up yesterday. The signs went up yesterday, and they are still there, jutting out from the enormous snow banks. The machines did not come. Our hearts are in our Thinsulate-lined, yak-trakked boots. And now? Now, outside my office window I hear the delicate glittery tinkle of freezing rain.

I think we will be staying inside again today…

March 19, 2008 Posted by | Canada, Ottawa, outings | 9 Comments