It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Adventures in Blurriness

I love sitting on my porch in the early morning, before the tots arrive. I’ll get out there at six, some mornings, with a cup of tea and a book. Sometimes with my laptop. And I listen to the birds, and enjoy the sunshine, and savour the peace.

Because lord knows it won’t last.

So that’s what I was doing yesterday morning. Sitting in the sun on the bottom step, glasses pushed up into my hair, tea at the ready, re-reading “The Cure for Death by Lightning”. (Nice thing about have NO MEMORY: I can read a book over and over — and still be surprised by the ending!!)

And then it’s 6:45 and time to move inside and get on with my pre-work chores. (My pre-work chores. That’d be the work I do before I start working?) I close my book, stand, turn to ascend the steps, reaching with one hand for my glasses atop my head, and …


My glasses were not atop my head. That was a hairband. My glasses are (now) beneath my foot.

Those of you who wear glasses will appreciate the wave of panic that washed over me. They are a sad sight. One arm bent up, the nosepiece twisted, one lens lying popped right out of the frame. They were a sad, sad sight.

And now I have to work — BLIND. Okay, not blind. But close. Do I have a backup pair? Well, I have my old pair, but the prescription has changed, and if I wear them for more than 10 minutes at a stretch, I will have killer headaches.


BUT! My optometrist has an optician onsite. I can pop in any time and they will fix it. Takes ten minutes. (How do I know this? No, I do not make a habit of stomping on my hundreds-of-dollars eyewear. I have teens who wear glasses, specifically a teenage boy. Nuff said.)

BUT! I have five children due within the hour and no car. I am NOT taking five children out on the bus downtown to the optometrist. NOT because of the logistics of five toddlers on a bus, though lord only knows that’s challenging enough. But because I’d be tackling the challenge BLIND. Well, blurry.


BUT! I do have a neighbour. A lovely, civic-minded, neighbourly neighbour who works shifts and might just be free during the day to drive me to the optometrist. With a car, it’ll be a matter of half an hour.

AND! I have a young teen in the house. If I let the parents know I’ll leave her in charge, I might be able to pop out of the house during naptime. BUT she’s young, only 13, so it’ll be their call whether they’ll leave their child or pick him/her up.

Four opt to leave child. One opts to pick up. Good. That’s sorted.

AND! Lovely neighbour says sure, no problem, he can drive me downtown. YES!!

So I bumble through the morning in a blurred and foggy world.

“Are we going outside today, Mary?” The questions rebounds repeatedly, because, hey, we ALWAYS go outside — and we’re NOT! What’s with THAT? Toddlers are huge creatures of habit. (In case you hadn’t noticed that. It’s a pearl of Mary wisdom.)

“Are we going outside today?”

“No, lovie, we’re not. Mary broke her glasses, and she can’t see.”

“But I can see.”

“So you can, but I need to see you.”

I can’t take them out that door. The thought of trying to monitor five small, fast-moving blurry little blobs of colour is unnerving in the extreme. I wouldn’t notice the limb that had been lopped off until I stepped on it.

No, we are not going outside.

But, at 1:00, just as the one abstaining child is being picked up, my ride arrives. YAY for neighbourly neighbours!! He’s knocking at the door and tot and mom pass through it. Tot looks up. Waaay up.

“Why is a police man taking Mary away?”

Because yes, neighbourly neighbour is indeed an officer of the law. His position is such that he doesn’t always wear the uniform, but today he’s in full dark blue, gun belt, cap, and all. Thankfully his rank and position mean that he drives an unmarked car, but he’s definitely a cop.

“Because Mary has been very, very bad.”

NO, I didn’t say that. I just thought it. Heehee.

At the optometrist, I’m flipping through magazines waiting for the optician to work her magic in the back room. Slowly, I become aware that there’s a bit of a flurry behind the reception desk. The three girls back there are buzzing excitedly about something or other.

“He’s been just sitting there, for at least five minutes.”
“Oooo. I’ll bet it’s that restaurant. I always said there was something besides food being dealt there.”
“Think it’s a stake-out???”

These girls watch too much television.

I hope they’re watching when I skip across the street and hop into the passenger side. What will they make of THAT, I wonder? Am I an undercover cop? Am I a hardened criminal? Who knows what drama they’ll spin for mild-mannered Mary.


All in all, it was an eventful day.

And now I can SEE!!!

YAY for neighbourly neighbours!

June 12, 2008 Posted by | health and safety, Ottawa, random and odd | 10 Comments

Do I really need this?

“But I WANT to!!!!!”

Nigel’s outrage is heartfelt. And more than a little exasperating. It doesn’t matter what it is, these days. When he’s told no, or that he’ll have to wait, or that a plan will be changing …

“But I WANT to!!!”

As if the world must needs stop and deliver precisely what he desires, simply because he desires it. In and of itself, this position is not noteworthy. All toddlers feel that way.

“I WANT!!!”

… is all that matters. Other peoples’ needs, the pressures of time, the realities of space, season, logistics, the laws of physics … none of this matters at all, all of these are mere distractions from the almighty…

“I WANT!!!!”

Except that this has never, not once, EVER worked at my house. Yes, it works in other sectors of his reality, but it does NOT work here. Give me a petulant foot-stomp and “I WANT” and you’re far more likely to get a rousing rendition of

You can’t. Always get. What you wa-ah-ahnt…

than you are to get you what you want. (Which reaction is, of course, exactly what they need. They don’t want it or like it, but, my job is to see that they get, like the song says, what they need. Caving in to a petulant “I WANT” is precisely the opposite of what they need. At the very least, they can ask politely.)

And so, though he did of course try it on me when he entered the turbulent storms of toddler-hood a year ago, it took only three or four weeks to eradicate that delightful little quirk. Oh, well. He’s a smart lad. Another couple of weeks of diligent, consistent, re-training, and we’ll have it out of his behavioural repertoire. At my house, at any rate.

But, ugh.

Why has is come back? It’s obnoxious. It’s petulant. It’s exasperating. It’s LOUD.

I don’t WANT it. Booo…

Maybe it’s for my sake? Maybe the fates have determined that Mary needs a little character-honing? Maybe Nigel’s regression is a sort of professional development?

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need.

(For your entertainment: that’s a YouTube link to a very old recording of the song. Craggy old Mick looks as fresh and dewy-faced as he probably ever did.)

June 11, 2008 Posted by | Nigel, power struggle | 10 Comments

Unclear on the concept

“What’s going to work? Teeeeeemwork! What’s going to work? Teeeeemwork!”

A phrase from a happy-shmappy kiddie recording, no doubt.

“What’s going to work? Teeeeeemwork!”

It started with Timmy, but it’s a catchy little lyric, particularly when you’ve heard it 428 times in three hours, and soon they’re all droning singing it.

“What’s going to work? Teeeeemwork!” It bounces back at me from every corner. From Timmy sitting on the couch with a book. From Emily, sitting in front of the fan, face lifted beatifically to the breeze. From Malli, putting dollies to bed. From Nigel, trotting across the room with one of the bear bags.

“What’s going to work? Teeeeeeemwork!” Lots of enthusiasm, lots of repetition. And of course, it’s a good concept. We hear it echo down through the morning, as we go about our usual round of activity and play.

“What’s going to work? Teeeeeeemwork!”

“That’s MINE! MY train!”

“What’s going to work? Teeeeeeemwork!”

“Timmy pushed me, Mary.”

“What’s going to work? Teeeeeemwork!”

“You can’t have one of those because they’re only for big kids.” This from a two-year-old to a three.

“What’s going to work? Teeeeeeemwork!”

“Me, too! It’s me turn! Me, too!”

“What’s going to work? Teeeeeeemwork!”

“I don’t like that. Don’t hit my bucket with that train.”

“What’s going to work? Teeeeeeemwork!”

“You can’t pull the train there!”

“What’s going to work? Teeeeeeemwork!”

“Is you going-a give me a turn yet?”

“What’s going to work? Teeeeeeemwork!”

“My daddy is taller than your daddy.”

“What’s going to work? Teeeeeeemwork!”

“My mommy is taller than your daddy.” (It’s true.)

“What’s going to work? Teeeeeeemwork!”

“Stop it! You’re squishing me!”

“What’s going to work? Teeeeeeemwork!”

“He ated my plum!”

“What’s going to work? Teeeeeeemwork!”

“Don’t stand there. You’re in my way.”

“What’s going to work? Teeeeeeemwork!”

Of course, just because you know the word, doesn’t mean you have a FLIPPING CLUE what it means. Obviously. I think we’ll be working on this one for a while. But hey, at least we know the solution:

“What’s going to work? Teeeeeeemwork!”

June 10, 2008 Posted by | aggression, daycare, manners, the things they say! | , , | 13 Comments

Flexibility is a virtue

Sunday night. My phone rings. Emily’s mother. “I know Monday isn’t one of her usual days, but I was wondering if we could switch with Thursday?”

“Oh, sure. No problem!”

Emily’s mother is such a sweetie. She’s in a bind, she needs the support, I can hardly say no. It’ll make my plans for Monday a little awkward, mind you. Timmy’s not going to be here today or tomorrow — he’s off somewhere with mom — so, with only three kids for Monday, I’d planned a fairly ambitious outing. Two busses to get us here.

Fun, no?

Can I manage that with four kids? I consider the logistics. With four, I’ll need a stroller, for sure, if only to give them something to hang on to. Strollers are a bit awkward on a bus, but the busses on the routes we’ll need to take will all be of the low-floor variety. The entry drops down for wheelchairs (and strollers!!), they have no stairs, and wider-than-normal aisles. You can even flip up one set of seats (assuming no one’s sitting on them) to make a niche for stroller (or wheelchair). About as convenient as a bus can be, really…

Emily’s not a great walker, of course. She’d need to be in the stroller for at least part of the day, anyway…

Four kids is kind of a lot to keep track of in such a busy place, and this being the last month of school, there may be some end-of-year class trips. If the place is crowded, keeping track of them could be very difficult…

I cogitate. What the heck. It’s a hot day. The air conditioning in the museum will be nice. And even if they only ride the busses there and back, the tots will be thrilled with the outing. We’ll go!

I’ve got the water bottles filled, the spare diapers and snacks tucked in the bags. We’re putting on hats and shoes, when …

Timmy and his mother walk through the door.

I greet her with a smile. “Oh, hello! I thought you were out of town today.” She nods, vaguely.

“Oh, yeah, well, that didn’t work out.”

Thank you for TELLING ME.

She does the hug-and-kiss and wanders off.

Damn. You know, if your plans change, why would you not INFORM the others who might be impacted by them? Yeah, I’m at work. Yeah, I’ll be here anyway. But maybe that extra child will change the shape of my day, alter plans. Maybe COMMON SENSE AND COMMON COURTESY would have you pick up the fu… phone and TELL ME?

Or maybe not.

I cogitate some more. Four was pushing it. There is no way I can manage five on and off the bus, keep track of five in the museum.

Good thing I was saving the happy news about WHERE we were going till we were on the bus. Because now? Now we’re going TO THE PARK!! Won’t THAT be fun?


It will, of course. They love the park.

The park appears busier than normal as we approach. Way busier. Way, way, waaaaay busier. I stop. Is it an end-of-year picnic for a preschool? Because that would be cool. Lots of kids to play with, lots of adults for me to chat with.

Hm. Balloons and streamers. A table full of food. Looks a little more organized than yer standard preschool potluck picnic. And … yes. A table full of presents. And a humungo birthday cake.

It’s a party. A birthday party.

If I had one or two kids, I wouldn’t hesitate. But with five? More cogitation. More mental totting up the risks and benefits…

Nope. There is no way I could keep five of them behaving properly. No way one of them wouldn’t start tearing into the birthday cake, or begging food off a guest, or ripping into a gift, or muscling their way into the pinata goodies…


We turn around. End up back at home, playing chalk in the driveway. Not quite what I’d envisioned for the day. Flexibility is a virtue. Guess that’s why I feel bent out of shape.


June 9, 2008 Posted by | outings, parents, the dark side | 8 Comments

Pretty as a Princess

If there ever was a child I had less pegged to emerge as a fluff-and-fripperies girl, it was Anna. Solid and cheery, with a hearty laugh and a terrific sense of humour, she charges around with more bruises on her chubby legs than two or three of the other kids combined. She climbs, she jumps, she wrestles. She takes tumbles and laughs. She takes pride in her bruises and scabs. She also shoves and jostles and shrieks with outrage at a more consistent level than the others.

Girly-girl? Not this one.

And yet. It is Anna who must, must, MUST wear a dress each and every day. The other day she showed up in a weather-appropriate pair of sweat pants and a matching zipped hoodie. The second her “I pulled rank” dad left, she was burrowing in her bin looking for a dress. She did not find one, (I hid it while I was ‘helping’ her look for it) and the world was a very, very bleak and unkind place for short, LOUD while…

It is Anna who MUST wear “dancing shoes”, which is to say, anything with bows, ribbons, sequins and/or brilliant colours — and a total lack of tread. Other, more sensible pieces of footwear accompany her to Mary’s house, but they only get on her feet under duress. “You may not come to the park unless you put on your running shoes.”

The other day she came carrying these:

“These are my princess shoes! I wearing princess shoes!”

I look at dad. You can’t tell so much from the picture, but the entire upper surface is layered with a mosaic of sequins in browns and golds. Quite gorgeous. How much care and concern do I need to lavish upon this spectacular pair of the Mama’s shoes? “Are these very treasured shoes?”

“They are to Anna!”

Too true. It was pouring all day, we were inside all day, and she wore them All.Day.Long. All the long, loud day. Anna called them “clop-clop shoes”, too, which is about right. She shuffled about the house, the heels wallopping the floor behind her. “Shhh-Bam! Shh-bam-bam-shh-bam-bam-bam-shh-bam! Bam!”

Any thoughts I may have had of losing them during naptime were scuppered when she demanded to sleep with them. All curled up, the heels pressed against her chest, the pointy toes nudging the wee chin, the sequins gleaming softly in the dim light. A girl and her footwear. Aaaaawwww… (No pictures; I didn’t want to wake her with the flash.)

I’ll be curious to watch this one grow up. Sequins and skirt and chortles and ribbons and tutus… bumps and bruises and wrestling and bellow of fury … which will win out?

Or will she be the world’s first rugby player in sequined jersey and heels?

June 6, 2008 Posted by | Anna, individuality, quirks and quirkiness, the cuteness! | 10 Comments

Not quite with the program

Take one driveway. At one end, draw a square for each tot, all in a row. Do the same at the other end. Between the rows of squares, draw circles in assorted colours.

Ta-dah! A polka-dot driveway! Enough to amuse the neighbours for days and days. Or until the next rain.

Introduce the tots to the polka-dot drive. Explain the idea. You start in a square! And you jump to a circle! Jump! Jump! Jump! Because we loooove to jump. Mary knows this, because they do it — or try to — All.The.Time in the house.


And this is what they do:


June 4, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 9 Comments

I love this!

Babies bring with them a LOT of clutter. Lots, lots, lots.

Of course, the babies aren’t buying the clutter, bringing it home, trying to find storage space for it, then maintaining the damned stuff — washing, dusting, disinfection, whatever. No, we loving parents do all that ourselves. To ourselves.

Some of this clutter — clothes, stroller, diapers — is pretty much unavoidable. But a lot of it… in fact, in North American families, I would venture to say most of it… is not.

Crib? Well, that baby could be sleeping with you. (Though this is a family style choice, not a moral one.) Point is, some families do without, having the baby with them for a period, then graduating the wee one to a mattress on the floor, or even their very own bed. Diapers? Make them cloth, and you’ll be throwing out a whole lot less plastic and assorted chemicals every week. Stroller? You need one. ONE. Car seat? You only need one if you have a car …

We assume so much is necessary that really isn’t. But I’m getting carried away. That’s not my focus today.

What I wanted to share with you was this. An online toy-rental. Is that not tres cool? You can have the toys that are appropriate for your baby’s age and stage, without having to buy them. When you’re done, you send them back and receive the next month’s installment.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a Canadian version. I don’t mind, because I am urban, and there have been toy lending libraries in urban centres for years now, often done through the public library. But if you don’t have access to the perks of urban life, this would be a great service.

Anyone know if there’s such a thing here?

(I found this via: The Un-Clutterer, one of my favourite reads. When you live in a small house populated by lots and lots and lots of bodies, you dreeeeam about uncluttered living. When a solid third of your clutter is people, though, the bodies of your near and dear and your livelihood, there’s only so much you can do about it …)

June 3, 2008 Posted by | daycare | , , , , | 9 Comments

Congrats to the Bingers!

What an industrious bunch of readers you all are! For your enjoyment and mutual curiosity, here is the list of all the participants in the Book Binge. I know I’ll find books for my to-read list here — probably enough to keep me busy till next year’s Binge! (I know there are a few whose links I don’t have yet; just pop a note in the comments and I’ll add you as I hear from you.)

This time, it’s in reverse alphabetical order, just to give Zayna a chance to be top of the list for a change — as soon as she sends me her link!

Three-legged Cat
Snowbird – no link, but her (his?) list’s in the comments
Susan Helene Gottfried
Ms. Huis Herself
Lori Thornton
JLS Hall
J. Kaye
Alison(is still working on her list)

June 2, 2008 Posted by | books | | 16 Comments

Not quite yet…

My internet connection is misbehaving badly today, connecting and disconnecting a minute or two later. There’s no way I can get a long list of links put in today, not if I want to stay sane. Or as sane as possible…

I’ll try later this evening, and if I can’t get on then, I’ll try tomorrow. Could it be the thunderstorms?

June 1, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment