It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Imagination is not always a good thing

“He couldn’t steal it, silly-billy. You’re pretending a bathing suit.”
“Then pretend you have it back. You’re pretending a suit, you’re pretending he stole your pretend suit. Sooo… Pretend it back.”

March 18, 2008 Posted by | aggression, quirks and quirkiness | 7 Comments

Because parenting doesn’t stop when the hormones start

There are four million and seven mommy blogs out there, and maybe three of them don’t deal with babies and toddlers. I’m not quite sure why that would be, but it’s clear to any mother of teens and young adults that there is a HUGE void in the Internets.

Not any more!

Ten brave writers, headed by Margalit of What Was I THINKING?, have leaped into the void to start Mid-Century Modern Moms. Or at any rate, we’ll be tossing lots of words into it.

The fabulous banner was designed by Secret Agent Josephine. Isn’t it lovely? Don’t you just love the mom’s naughty wink? And that’s probably exactly the colour of my hair. If I let it.

I know some of you have wondered what Mary is really like, and if you’re curious to see a little of what goes on at Casa P when the tots go home, here is your chance to find out. You’ll find some FINE writing over there. And while you’re admiring what my nine compatriots have written, see if you can figure out which one is me!

(But if you’re going to make a guess, please don’t post it here. Post it over there, or email me at notmaryp at gmail dot com.)

March 17, 2008 Posted by | my kids, parenting | 6 Comments

I’ve got a surprise for you

I’m going to be making an announcement. Nope, no hints.

Come back tomorrow and see.

March 16, 2008 Posted by | Mischief | 7 Comments

Fear not, Internets, I have not abandoned you!

Well, actually …

That was a lie.

Yes, I have.

Until Monday.

I will be back Monday.

But for now,







March 15, 2008 Posted by | holidays | 1 Comment

Swan Lake with a twist

This week while I’m on holiday? Bits and pieces of ephemera and fun.

Isn’t that astonishing?

via: Andrew Sullivan

March 12, 2008 Posted by | random and odd | 7 Comments

Tuesday, already?

Sorry! Totally lost track of time. It’s March Break, see, and I have the week off! No toddlers in the house. The potty and the high chair and the sleeping cots are all in the back porch. The blocks and puzzles are stashed away. My home looks like … a house! Instead of a toy sink.

And I, meanwhile, am NOT in Ottawa. I am in a mid-sized city in southern Ontario which I’m not sure if I’m allowed to identify, visiting with my oldest child. Who has her very own apartment! And her very own cat!! And her very own boyfriend!!!

I hugely hate long drives, so I opted to take the train, which I have always vastly preferred. You can gaze out the window at the passing scenery, you can walk up and down the aisle, you can snooze, you can read — none of which you can do while driving.

So I board my train at 12:20. Right on schedule! Which, given the weather here in Ottawa last weekend, was nothing short of a miracle.

And you really can’t demand more than one miracle in a day, can you?

My official itinerary was: four hours to Toronto; hour layover; one hour to destination, arrive in time for dinner with Haley.

Too bad about the unofficial freight train which a) needed to pass before we could go and b) broke down, requiring a NEW ENGINE. That took about two hours. We chug into motion, there is great cheering from the cluster of kids in the group seats at the front of the car and affectionate chortling from the rest of the car in response. It was cute.

Enthusiasm dissipated somewhat when we halted 200 metres down the track. “Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that the switch ahead is frozen. It will take about ten minutes.”

And it did. Okay, then.

Unofficially, after the unoffical frozen switch, there was ANOTHER freight train, and ANOTHER wait.

And then, unofficially, there was A THIRD DAMNED FREIGHT TRAIN. And we had to wait for it. I’m sure hoping that somewhere there were freight trains waiting on us. Just to balance out the karma.

And you know what? THAT freight train ALSO needed a NEW ENGINE.

And when we finally started moving again, and then stopped a few metres later, when the announcer-lady came on for the umpteenth time, she was sounding distinctly reluctant as she informed us that … the switch ahead had frozen.

We have sat three times waiting for freight trains, two times waiting for frozen switches, and now two times waiting for entire new engines. By now we are closing in on four hours delayed. It is past 8 p.m., and we are all still on a train that we should have vacated at 4:30.

So, when we heard this news, letting us know of this most recent delay?

We laughed.

What else could you do? There’s nowhere to go. There’s no way out.

We laughed. Why get angry? Who’s to blame? Not Via Rail, only doing their best despite the havoc caused by the 50 cm snow we got the day before. (I didn’t hear of any planes taking off from Ottawa AT ALL on Sunday, so, nyah.) Not at frozen switches because this is Canada. In March. (Which in these parts is still Dead of Winter.) Not at the poor weary crew, who have all been on the train EVEN LONGER than us.

I got to Toronto at 9. Got in line to my next train at 9:05; on the next train at 9:30; moving at 9:45.

And it’s only an hour’s trip! I’m almost there! Except for the hour-long sit-on-the-track. I forget why. It was all sort of blurring together by now, and besides, I was sleeping, mostly. And then, when we did start moving? WE WERE GOING BACKWARDS!!! A university student up at the front sing-songs “WRONG WAY-AYYYY!!!” And there are slightly hysterical giggles throughout the car. We are going backwards.

It was not a dream.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I really, really regret to inform you that the switch ahead is frozen, and we will have to back up to the previous switch.” Her voice cracks with tension. I’m thinking there had been a tussle in the microphone room and she had lost the toss. Someone is standing behind her, threatening to kidnap her children if she doesn’t MAKE THE DAMNED ANNOUNCEMENT. “I am really, really sorry. Thank you so much for your patience. We really, really appreciate your understanding.” I think she’s trying to plant some subliminal seeds, poor woman.

We backed up to the LAST STATION. Not Toronto, an intermediary station, whose name a totally and completely forget. Because by then I had no brain.

We pulled into my destination at 12:40 a.m.

My six-hour trip became a 12-hour marathon.

And my daughter was waiting at the station. Bless her sleepy heart.

And that, boys and girls, is how I came to lose track of Monday.

(Oh, and I still prefer trains.)

March 11, 2008 Posted by | Canada, holidays, my kids, Ottawa | , , | 10 Comments

Join me for Earth Hour


Here’s a painless way to make a positive impact. On March 29, at 8 p.m., my family will turn off every light in our home. We will leave them off for an hour. So far, there are 652 other people from Ottawa, 24,816 others in Canada, and 84,652 globally (up 500 from three hours ago, when I signed up) doing the same.

The movement started in Sydney last year. The 2.2 million individuals and 2,100 businesses that participated lowered Syndey’s power usage by 10.2%. The energy saved was equivalent, so the site tells us, to that saved by keeping 48,000 cars off the road. For a year.

When you sign up, you will receive an email with a link to your very own page on their site. Through that page, you can invite your friends, and they will track how many people you were responsible for bringing into the event.

It’s such a simple thing to do. When I explained it to my 14-year-old, her response was heart-warming: “That’s so easy, mum. Why don’t we do that every day?” Why not, indeed?

March 29, 8:00 p.m. Earth Hour. Won’t you join us?

March 7, 2008 Posted by | Canada, health and safety, Ottawa | , , , , , | 6 Comments

Think hot, think tropical, think ANYTHINGBUTMOREOFTHIS!

We had a Major Winter Storm last night. Possibly our seventh of the season. The city ran through its snow removal budget before Christmas. Lord only knows how we’re paying for this…

It just keeps coming down. Inches upon centimetres upon ice upon sleet upon snow. The snow fell steadily all yesterday afternoon. The sleet fell last night. The freezing rain around dawn, followed by snow for the bulk of the day. The sun has come out now, late afternoon, as have all my neighbours, armed with shovels.

Cars sit in the street. Nowhere for them to go until the driver clears the driveway. There is no street to speak of, only two parallel tire-ruts, six inches deep in the snow. Snow which is levelled flat by the underbelly of the passing cars between the ruts, and mounded even higher to each side.

I rather like this stage of the storm, when the neighbours all come out armed with shovels and do battle with the mounds. There is much camaraderie. People holler encouragement. Neighbours band together to shove a car into a drive. A man crosses the road with a bucket of sand; another helps a neighbour put chains on his tires (illegal on highways, but all right for getting into your drive). Laughter rolls, tangible as exhaled breath in the icy air. The snow, the sheer depth of the stuff, muffles sound. It’s a calmer, quieter, kind, more congenial city which digs its way out.

But still. Enough with the snow already! (“It’s MARCH!” we say to each other, as if THAT means anything in Ottawa. We all know better, yet somehow, it seems an injustice, an impropriety, to be suffering so in March.)

With this the view out your front door — that mound is four feet high and obscures two-thirds of the sidewalk — you can see why Sheri’s “Let’s Pretend It’s NOT Winter” meme is so very appealing. Which is why I’m doing it, Right Now.

1. If you could go anywhere in the world RIGHT NOW, where would you go?

Tahiti. Tahiti has always been my fantasy escape destination. Who knows if the reality would live up to the dream? (Who cares, given how slight is the possibility I will ever get there?) Tahiti. I’d rather be in Tahiti.

2. What’s your favourite tropical drink?

A crushed-ice lime margarita. Slushies for grownups.

3. What’s your favourite (non-winter) activity?

Walking. I do that all year round, obviously, but I enjoy it in the summer. In summer, it’s recreation; in winter, merely transportation.

4. What’s your favourite article of summer clothing?

My red wrap-around dress.

5. What’s your favourite food cooked on the BBQ?

Grilled vegetables, especially red pepper, eggplant, and garlic. Yummmm…

6. You’re on the beach…what do you have on your feet?

NOTHING. I want the heat, I want the sand between my toes.

7. Canoe, motor boat or white water raft? (Or write your own)


8. Do you prefer to swim in a pool, a lake or the ocean?

Ocean. With a sandy, not rocky or seaweedy, bottom.

9. Favourite flavour of ice cream?

I’m not huge on ice cream. Probably President’s Choice Fudge Crackle.

10. What do you look forward to most about summer in general?

Not having cold feet. Long walks. Evenings relaxing on the porch. Early morning reading on the porch.

UPDATE: Forecast for the weekend: 20 – 30 more cm, with a possibility, if the storm settles rather than passing through, of 40 – 50.

Tahiti. Someone take me to Tahiti. NOW.

March 6, 2008 Posted by | Canada, memes and quizzes, Ottawa | , , , | 7 Comments

I can never resist…

… a book meme. This one is from Kathy Howe at Kazoofus, though I’ve seen it all over the place.

Here are the rules:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people and post a comment here once you post it to your blog so I can come see!

Okay. Here are the sentences:

Instead, for the next two hours, again and again he led the firefighter back over the events of that day in an attempt to document precisely what the lieutenant did and didn’t know. “The first thing was that the fire didn’t behave the way it was supposed to,” Klein says. Kitchen fires should respond to water.

The book is blink. Subtitle: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell. I am not as far as page 123 yet, but even from the perspective of page 66, I would highly recommend this book. It’s fascinating. (And, although he objects to the term (largely because of how he, personally, defines the word) I think it’s blatantly obvious that what the book’s discussing is indeed “intuition”.)

I don’t like tagging people, but I’d love to hear from you! Let me know if you do this!

March 5, 2008 Posted by | books, memes and quizzes | 5 Comments

Enough is enough. At least for today.

Timmy arrived a few days ago with two toys clenched in his slender fists. In one hand a bulldozer that, with the press of a button, would chug its way industriously across the room. In the other, a perfectly respectable, but non-motorized loader.

Guess which was the preferred toy?

The children are allowed to bring toys from home. Toys from home are an even greater challenge for sharing than Mary’s toys, of course — which is exactly why they’re allowed to bring them! It does complicate my day, however.

We have some ground rules:

1. When someone walks in with a toy you may NOT swarm them.
1b. Or grab the toy.
1c. Or verbally grab the toy.
1d. Or shove an inferior toy at them and demand a trade.

In short, you must exercise … patience. PATIENCE??!? Good lord. And as if that isn’t bad enough…

2. The toy-owner does not have to share. However, if they don’t want to share, the toy is put away for the day. Toys which are not share-able (apart from very specific lovies) are not allowed at Mary’s.

3. The toy-owner gets to decide who plays with the toy first.

4. The toy-owner gets to set the timer for 2, 3, or 4 minutes. (We don’t always use the timer, but some children really like it.)

5. After everyone in the daycare has had one turn, the toy-owner gets it back.

6. After this, they are not obliged to share it any more, though they certainly can if they wish. Knowing they are assured of getting it back, and that they determine how long they are to be deprived of it, they very often do. This varies from child to child, of course.

They are empowered in that they get to choose who and how long. They may even choose not to share. What they may not choose is to wave the toy under the other children’s noses and refuse them a try.

Okay. So them’s the rules. And Timmy was reeeeasonably willing to share. He didn’t want the toys in his bucket all day, so he complied with the expectation that he share, but it was a bit of an effort. Every.Time.

For him, and, by extension, for me.

The next day, we got to practice some more! Because he brought them again! And the next day, MORE practice! And then even MORE!!

I am weary, boys and girls, weary, weary, because Timmy is not getting any better at this. Every day is a long, tedious series of reminders and reassurances and “when the timer dings, it will be your turn”, and “Anna hasn’t had a turn yet. In a minute, she will want one.” And more reassurances that yes, the toy will return to his anxious arms in just a minute.

My encouragement that sharing can be fun, because TWO people get to play instead of just ONE fall on deaf ears. My ideas that you can play WITH the other person playing with your toy is equally unwelcome.

So. Long days. Not frustrating, because I know it will come. Just Boooooring. The same thing, over and over and over again, waiting for comprehension to dawn, waiting for maturity, waiting for him to “get” it. I know, having done this with dozens of children down through the years, that he will get there, that it just takes time, that each of us grows into it in their own way.

I know all that.

But gracious, it can be tedious.

And today, when he brought those dratted things AGAIN? I waited till mummy had departed, and then with cheerful and implacable firmness, I put.them.away.

I’m NOT going to help Timmy learn to share his toys today. And do I feel any guilt about this? Not in the slightest.

See, I’m allowed to cut myself some slack once in a while. I’m allowed to say, “Not this, not today.” I’m allowed to give myself mental health breaks. And so are you. It’s a sound parental strategy called Conserving Your Energy. (Hoarding your Resources? Saving your Sanity? Stepping back from the Brink?)

They spent the morning playing; dancing Ring Around the Rosy; marching teeny plastic teddies through a castle; stomping about with blankets over their heads, pretending to be ghosts; building block towers and knocking them down; building long meandering tracks of Brio leading nowhere; playing Hop, Little Bunnies and Three Little Monkey; playing, laughing, playing, squabbling, playing, dancing, playing, playing, playing …

And not a single dozer in sight. Thank God.

March 4, 2008 Posted by | behavioural stuff, manners, parenting, power struggle, socializing, Timmy | , , , | 5 Comments