It’s Not All Mary Poppins

House inspection by toddler

“Here, Mary! This is for you!”

Nigel, Timmy, Emily and I are building a tower in the kitchen. This takes some manoeuvring on my part. Nigel, you see, can stack blocks 10 or 12 high; Emily can manage about 4, and Timmy? Well, we’re not quite sure about Timmy, because in his wee mind, blocks are for knocking down, not building up — and why build your own when other people do it for you???

It’s kind of entertaining to watch. He knows he’s not supposed to knock them down. He knows he’s supposed to build his own towers. He knows that you can knock down your own towers but not anyone else’s. And he tries. He really does! But it’s so hard. He sees those carefully-constructed towers going up and his eyes start to gleam. He’ll stack one block atop the first. He’ll eye the three-block tower of his neighbour. He takes a third block — but his neighbour’s tower is now five blocks high! His block hovers over his two-block stack … he quivers a bit, leans toward the growing tower. It’s SEVEN blocks high now. SEVEN!!!

And the dam bursts. His hand with the block flashes out and his face bursts into radiant delight at the sound and the fury he’s unleashed. Part of the fury is the outrage of the child building the tower, of course. Timmy isn’t happy about that, he’s not a malicious child, but OH! The smashings and crashings! The chaos and cacophany! The booms and the bangs!!!

In order to prevent bedlam and bloodshed, my steadying presence is required. Obviously. When I need to move on and attend to other things, I will bring Timmy the Destructo-boy with me.

“Here, Mary! This is for you!” Malli has entered the kitchen from the living room, where she’s been working on puzzles. She hands me a pen and a cap.

“Oh, good for you. I’ll just put that in the pen-cup, shall I?” She nods and trots off. I help Timmy, who is starting to twitch in the direction of Nigel’s 5-block tower, to stack a second block on top of the first. Malli returns, 90 seconds later.

“I got a pretty necklace! See my pretty necklace?” She holds it out to me. It’s a pretty thing, big round chunky wooden beads stained with what look like natural dyes. It looks vaguely familiar. I guess she’s worn it before. I help her slip it over her head. Then quick grab Timmy’s skinny wrist as it flashes out. “That’s Emily’s tower, Timmy. You only knock down your tower.”

And Malli is back at my elbow. “Here Mary. You needa put these away.” I certainly do. Four pennies are potentially lethal in a daycare. I do not know WHY some parents keep letting their tots come with coinage clutched in sweaty fists. Normally I frisk them down upon entry and confiscate potentially lethal contraband. (I mean, who sends a two-year-old to daycare with coins? Or a container of toothpicks? Or a teeny purse-size bottle of nail polish remover?)

Nigel’s tower is now FOURTEEN blocks high! I think this is a personal best for the boy. It is very exciting.

“Mary, what are these?”

“Those are hockey cards, Malli.” And now the question comes to me, the question that probably should have occurred to me earlier, the question that you’ve probably been asking all along … “Where are you getting these things?”

“In da livin’room.”

“The living room? Can you show me?”

And we proceed out to the living room, where all appears normal … except for the couch-cushions, lifted up and tipped back, resting against the back of the couch. Ah.

Mystery solved.

May 13, 2008 Posted by | eeewww, Malli, Timmy | 4 Comments

Maybe I’m hormonal…

The tots say the darndest things all day, every day. I’m always delighted by it, but I’m also pretty much used to it. But some days, and I think it must be me, I keep hearing things. Things they have no idea they’re saying, but there I am, hearing them anyway. I blame hormones.


Tot 1: I am coming!
Tot 2: No! I comed first!

Snort. I’ve known men like him… Bet some of you have, too…


Timmy arrives, brandishing a book for me to read. I demur. It’s one of that inane Mr. Men series, which I loathe. I am not paid enough to be that bored. However, the title gives me a laugh.

“Mary, see! I gots Mr. Happy!”

Snort. All day, every day, sweetie. You don’t know the half of it yet.

“Careful with the macaroni, guys. It’s a little hot. Blow on it first.”
Ever helpful, Emily leans over to blow on Nigel’s macaroni.
“No! Emily! Don’t do that!”
She does it again.
“NO, Emily! Don’t blow me! I don’t like that!”

Snort. The day will come when he won’t believe he could ever have said that


Okay. I think I’ll go have a soothing cup of tea now. My mouth is sore what with all the snorting I’ve been doing.

May 12, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 11 Comments

How’s your binging?

Binging? Or is that bingeing? They both look wrong. The first looks like it should rhyme with ‘singing’, and the second has too many vowels.

I think it’s bingeing, though. Like singeing? (Except that looks wrong, too…) I could just find the damned dictionary, but inertia rules. This laptop is so heeeeavyyyyy…

book bingeAs I suspected, with far less time to read this year, I am churning my way through fewer books. I also made some crappy choices at the library last week. Some weeks are like that.

The first was odd: it lost me by page 90, but there were some loose ends I was curious about — though not curious enough to slog my way through the intervening 321 pages — so I hopped over to the last chapter. And was so astonished and fascinated by what I found that I had to go back to page 90 to find out how on earth she’d gotten from there to here.

After that, it was a terrific read, though I confess I would skip through two or three pages here and there to keep the pace up.

The second started off dryly humourous, I thought, but turned out to be strictly in earnest and, as such, earnestly boring. I read the first 55 pages, then bounced in to read a page here and there, then read the last chapter. Yawn.

I’m currently 72 pages into “Bread and Dreams” by Jonatha Ceely. (No, that’s not a typo. Jonatha.) So far, it’s the best of the lot.

That’s my binge, so far. How’s yours?

May 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 12 Comments


I know you guys say all sorts of complimentary things about me. One of you, you sweetie, actually called me the “gold standard” for caregivers. Which would have made me blush — if I ever blushed. (I never do; strange, since I have a very pale complexion for a brunette.) Not a few of you have very flatteringly rued the fact that you lived far, far away and couldn’t leave your child with me. It’s all very nice…

but you’re wrong.

There is no point in beating around the bush. I am just going to spit it right out. I am no paragon. I am not in the caregiver elite, and I am certainly not the Gold Standard.

Nope. As of right now, I am officially a deadbeat caregiver.


I have this great Mother’s Day craft I’ll be doing with the tots. I’ve done it in years past, and it’s always a hit. It’s cute, colourful, personal, and even a little bit practical. And the kids really do a goodly portion of the work. Not all: This is one of the rare ones that I actually “fix up” a bit when they’re done. It’s one I enjoy, AND it has a sort of companion Father’s Day gift, too, for next month.

And you, you lucky people, are going to get to see this thing in production, so that you, too, can make it. If not for yourselves (since most of you guys are gals), then for grammas. Wouldn’t that be nice? Step-by-step instructions, with pictures, and actually little pudgy dimpled hands doing the work? Wouldn’t that be CUTE?

And won’t the mommies just LOVE it?

Well, no, actually, because they’re NOT GOING TO GET IT.

Why not?

Because it takes about a week to complete, and I HAVEN’T STARTED IT YET, THAT’S WHY!

Why not?


I can’t even do some cute-but-quick craft tomorrow, because two of the tykes won’t be here tomorrow.

I screwed up Mother’s Day. I absolutely, totally screwed up Mother’s Day. What kind of a caregiver misses Mother’s Day?

A deadbeat one, that’s what kind.

I. Am. Mortified.


May 8, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 14 Comments

MotherTalk reviews: That Baby stuff

Packages are always very exciting.

“What’s in there, Mary? You gots a present?”

“Not a present, exactly. Some people sent me this” … I hold up a DVD… “and this…” a CD… “so that we can listen to them, and tell them what we think of it.”

“It’s music??

Music is good around here. We listen to music a lot, and we do not keep it to kidstuff. The kids are as likely to be groovin’ to Etta James as to Raffi, and though they’ve heard a fair amount of Haydn and Mozart here, the air in Mary’s house has never been polluted by the Wiggles. Blues, jazz, classical, folk, classic rock, alternative, even the occasional country and what my husband calls “head-banger” music. Depends on Mary’s mood, depends on the children.

Music is a tremendous mood-setter. If you want them calming down for a nap, you’ll choose chamber music over rowdy blues. You have a little energy to burn on a rainy day? Crank those blues and let the babies bop to Stevie Ray!

So, TWO music disks in ONE package? Someone DID send us a present!

Now, we have a slight problem. Mary does not own a television. Well, okay, technically I do. One. It has a 14-inch screen, and it’s in the attic. I watch it perhaps twice a year; the daycare tots never do.

Mary, however, does own a laptop!

And this is what happened when the DVD was on: children clustered around a screen, pointing and talking. Now, had I placed it so there was a larger open space in front of the screen, perhaps we’d have seen more movin’ and groovin’, I’m not sure. Whatever the reason, the DVD was the scene of much pointing and talking rather than bouncing and bopping.

Which is just fine, because the talk was some entertaining.

“Hey! There is George!” Nigel identifies his tow-headed older brother in one of the six-year-olds on the screen.
“And that is my MOMMY!” Malli offers, as an 8-year-old girl dances to “Brass in Pocket”.
“Lookit! Lookit, is ME!” Blond-haired, grey-eyed Anna is thrilled to see herself on the screen — in the form of a very cute little black boy just about her age.

Though this is very cute, I confess I prefer the effect of the CD on them. Deprived of the visuals, they don’t cluster and point, they dance. They whirl, they jump, they shriek with laughter. Much better.

There isn’t a song on the disks they don’t like. Me, I’m not fond of “Anything is Possible”. Far too preachy-earnest for my tastes, but the tots, they don’t care.

My favourite is probably the first: the “Happiness Runs/Circle Game” medley, in part because I like Joni Mitchell, and in part because I did enjoy the visuals on the DVD.

I found “Brass in Pocket” a little disconcerting at first, particularly the DVD version. I remember when this song was Top-40, and to my mind, it’s about sex. “Gonna use my arms, gonna use my legs…” And to see little children of 6 or 7 years olds mouthing those words was a bit unsettling. I didn’t like the way the first little girl danced, either.

After I watched it a couple of times, though, I changed my mind. The words, when sung through the minds and mouths of small children, are in fact perfectly all right for small children. They won’t be hearing any innuendo there: after all, kids do use their arms and legs … and smiles and laughter and play and teasing and mischief and whatever it takes … to get “some attention, attention, attention, give it to me!” What kid doesn’t want attention? Seen from that perspective, it’s a cute track.

I’m not raving about the disks. They’re nice. They have an interesting, eclectic mix of songs by a disparate range of writers. Would I have bought them myself, had they not been provided for the purposes of review?

Likely not. But then, I am cheap poor cheap. However, if you’re interested, enter the coupon code “MotherTalk” when purchasing and save 20% on your entire order! From now until May 18th, all orders using the coupon code “MotherTalk” will be entered in a drawing to win a new iPod nano. So there’s that.

May 7, 2008 Posted by | music | 5 Comments


A woman approached the table where the tots and I sat in our neighbourhood coffee shop. I’m sipping a latte, they are munching on blueberry muffins. We are chatting together, the six of us.

“Are they all yours?”

You’d be astonished how often I get asked. Two three-year-olds and three two-year-olds? My poor, weary womb…

“No, it’s a daycare. We’re all friends!”

“Are they always this well-behaved?” Since they are doing nothing out of the ordinary, the only answer I can give is a straightforward,


“Wow! You’re so lucky.”

We’re at a park. There are three play areas in this park, and my five are playing in an around the one containing a playhouse. They are making birthday cakes and singing “Happy Birthday” as they present buckets filled with sand and sticks (aka candles) to each other. It is very cute.

Another woman, mother of busy 15-month-old, comments, “Look at them all playing together. Do they always stay together like that?”

“Pretty much.”

“You’re so lucky!”

I get that a lot. I take five toddlers to a coffee shop, we stay for 25 minutes, with everyone staying in their chairs, waiting for their food, saying “please” and “thank you”, and not being disruptively loud — and that’s luck?

I have five two- and three-year-olds in a park, and they play co-operatively together, staying within a clearly defined area — and that’s luck?

Thanks a helluva lot.

I’m aware that there is a reluctance on the part of many mothers to take credit for their child’s good behaviour. I can only speculate why. I wonder if it’s a form of inverse political correctness: if I take credit for my child’s good behaviour, that means a parent with poorly-behaved children must take the blame for that. We see this as unfair, I guess. And, yes: there are those children who, given the best, most loving, wise and sensible of parents, still end up rebellious, defiant, rude, unkind. Children who cause their parents no end of grief. It happens. Life’s unfair like that. But is that the norm? I don’t think so.

And does that mean that you should not take credit for the good behaviour that is the result of days and weeks and months and years of careful, consistent, reasoned, diligent effort? Why is it that women, who are so willing to accept blame and guilt for every quirk of their children’s behaviour, are so reluctant to accept the credit for the good stuff? My three kids are a constant source of pride to me: because they are marvellous people in their own right — but also because they are (in part, though not entirely, of course) a credit to my parenting.

Yes, they are.

And the fact that I am able to take five or six toddlers all over this city, that we can frequent coffee shops and busses and art galleries and museums, and have nary a tantrum or hissy fit (well, maybe three a year) … this is luck? That I’ve been doing it for twelve or so years, with dozens of children, who are all pretty uniformly well-behaved?

I’m just so lucky.

Anyone can be an effective parent. All it takes is a little luck!

May 6, 2008 Posted by | behavioural stuff, manners, outings, parenting, socializing | 19 Comments

On your marks, get set … READ

Kat finished her first book of the binge at three this morning, making her the woman to beat. (Not surprising, given her performance on last year’s Book Binge.)

I have up-up-updated the list of participants. If you don’t see your name there, or if your link is missing or malfunctioning, please let me know in the comments! And if you want to sign up now, of course you may. There is never a bad time to start reading. My life is one long book binge.

(I always type that “Book Bings”, then have to go back and correct. If it slips now and then, it’s either because I didn’t notice or didn’t care. You may point it out to me, if you like, but don’t be upset if it was a “what the hell” moment, and I don’t fix it…)

Today the tots and I will be going … to the library!! Yes, indeed. Because I, you see, have a list of books from last year’s binge that I didn’t get to. I do, it’s scratched on a scrap of paper that I found in the Book Basket in the living room, and then I put it … I put it …

Damn! I put it “somewhere safe”. Now I’ll never find it!

That’s okay, though: I have a couple of neighbours who, discovering that I absolutely devour books, have taken to wandering across the street with literary hand-me-downs. (Have I said before how much I love my neighbourhood??)

So at the moment I am well into Jodi Picoult’s Second Glance, and I have two more by different authors at my elbow. And that’s before even getting to the library!! Woo! Which is just as well, really, since I will be visiting the adult section with four toddlers in tow. They are very well-behaved toddlers, but they are toddlers. My window of browsing is seven minutes, max.

We’ll see what an episode of “speed browsing” puts in my reading shopping cart.

May 5, 2008 Posted by | books | 9 Comments

Book Binge Starts Monday – updated list of participants

So the Second Annual (who knew it was going to become an annual event?) Book Binge starts on Monday, and here is the list of participants, so far. (If you want to be included, just grab a button from here, and leave a note in the comments below.)

Alison (2!)
Anne Florezano
Baroness von Bloggenschtern
Hey bartender
Jan in Edmonds
JLS Hall
Juli (Can I borrow your book?)
Kim in Ohio
Kim (page-after-page)
Literary Feline
Lori Thornton
Mike F
Ms. Huis
Mrs. S
Susan Helene Gottfried
Sylvie Madeleine
Three-legged Cat
tin cc-ong

There! That’s the list so far, but you can sign up at any time. You can sign up on May 30, if you really think it’ll be worth your while …

If there’s anyone I’ve missed, please let me know!

May 2, 2008 Posted by | books | 41 Comments

Lazy post from loserpants blogger

I am scrambling a bit to keep up with the posting this week, (because I have been blogging here, here, and here) but for your entertainment today, here are two posts which had me holding my aching stomach, tears running down my face.

Gwendomama shows us a piece of children’s art, and Mir’s inimitable Monkey has been studying Shakespeare lately.

Hey, there’s a theme here! These are both examples of children’s art: one sculptural/visual, one literary!

And if they don’t make you laugh, well, you’re just a loserpants.

May 1, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment