It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Innocence can be so cruel

It’s a Potato Head extravaganza at Mary’s! By virtue of diligent garage-scale scouring, Mary has no fewer than five large Potato Heads and eight mini ones, with accompanying accessories.

Odd to think that body parts — eyeballs, ears, hands and feet — could be accessories…

“Mine is going to bed now, so I’m going to put on her toes.” It is no surprise that Malli’s Potato Head is a girl, and even less of a surprise that she’s wearing a pink hat, pink hands, and pink nose. Sadly for Malli, there are no pink shoes. Nor even feet. The shoes are neon green, and the bare feet, orange.

People do not wear shoes to bed, so Malli is exchanging green shoes for orange bare feet. Nigel reaches across to remove Mrs. P’s hat, but Malli jerks it away, indignant. Apparently, people DO wear their hats to bed.

No, they don’t!
Do, too!
Do not!
Yes, they do!
Nooooo!
Enough, you two.

The Potato Heads go to the store, they fix up an old house while living in a “fresh” one, they get their hair cut, they fight fires, they shoot robbers. Busy lives these Potato People live.

Then they get hungry. They want to eat. They are going to have a picnic! All the Potato Folk are ranged around a pink bear bag (non-directive toys are so much better for imaginative play!), awaiting their meal.

And what is on the menu for today’s picnic luncheon for the hungry Potato People?

French Fries!!!

July 31, 2008 Posted by | eeewww, the things they say! | , , | 6 Comments

Recipe swap! An edible meme.

I hate meal-planning. Hate it with a fiery passion. I sit with pen in hand to make up a menu, and my mind is suddenly and completely filled with the most impenetrable … nothing. Not a single idea percolates to the surface. There is nothing like the blankness of my mind when confronted with the need to plan a week’s list of meals. I grow restless at the very thought, the old fight or flight takes over, and I just want to drop that pen and run.

Darn these kids who surround me who constantly want to ingest things. What IS it with all this incessant eating, anyway? Jeez.

(Which is why I am so very, very grateful to be married to a man who plans the dinners. He was not so grateful to discover, shortly after he moved in, that he’d managed to find a woman who frequently forgets to eat… (“What? You want to eat again? Didn’t we just do that? Damn.”) But since he’s neither bossy nor passive, he didn’t rant and rave, or even stew with resentment. Nope, he just saw a niche and he filled it.

We now have a menu posted on the fridge, a dinner listed for every day of the week, meals for which he does the shopping. Oh, how I love this orderly, methodical, hypoglycemic man.)

In my last post, Amanda commented on the mention I’d made of sub-standard caregivers who feed their charges KD and hot dogs. Let me clarify here: I meant people who feed their children this stuff routinely. Though there are some who never, ever feed their children such nutritionally vacant foods (and bless your virtuous, self-disciplined, inspirational souls!), the vast majority of us cave in to convenience once in a while.

That means that yes, the tots at MaryP’s house get Kraft Dinner on occasion. Even baloney sandwiches, which, to me, are the ultimate in Bad Kid Food, and “food” only if you’re inclined to be generous with your definitions… Still, while it’s not 100% nutritional purity around here, they don’t get much junk, either.

Nor do they get much in the way of the North American idea of “kid-friendly” foods, so much of which is over-processed, high-sodium, high-fat dreck. Junk, by any other name.

They do eat a lot of leftovers. Yes, leftovers. At least once a week. I have never understood why people revile leftovers. Leftovers are efficient! And thrifty! Leftovers are time-savers! And most of all — leftovers are creative. Really. Take one meal, tweak it a bit to make a different one; that’s creative, and creative is interesting!

I do, of course, make lunches from scratch. As you’re probably all really curious to know what goes down well with the tots, I’ll share a couple of our favourites — and then, because I LOATHE planning meals and am always on the lookout for easy, nutritous meals (who isn’t?), I’m going to ask for your input.

We’re going to have a recipe swap — or share, more like.

I’ll post two of my favourite daycare recipes, nutritional food that can be put together in 20 minutes or less. Then it’ll be your turn.

1. Post one or two recipes on your blog,
2. link to this post, and
3. let us know in the comments where to find your terrific ideas!

Let’s stick to healthy recipes. Recipes that use the bare minimum of processed foods. (Frozen fruit or vegetables are fine; canned items, too, if they’re low sodium. Avoid processed, heat-and-serve or pre-fried elements.)

THEN, next Wednesday, I’ll post a list of all the recipes, linking back to your original post. Bookmark the page, and it’ll be your very own virtual recipe book of tried-and-true kid-friendly recipes!

Is that not a brilliant idea? Thanks, Amanda, for the inspiration!

My recipes:

1. Farmer’s Omelette
(Requires cast-iron frying pan, or at least, pan that can go from stovetop to oven)

Ingredients:
-one egg per child
-one slice of bread per four eggs, torn or cut into half-inch bits. Absolutely no reason to cut off crusts — in fact, I’ll often use the end slice for this.
-milk
-cheese
-vegetable oil

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Preheat cast iron pan on a medium burner, with about a tablespoon of oil in it.

2. Drop bread bits into a smallish bowl. Pour in sufficient milk to soak the bread. You want the bread nice and soggy, but you’d like to avoid leftover milk, which would be wasteful. (Unless one of the kids will drink it, bread crumbs and all!)

3. In a medium-size bowl, beat the eggs, just long enough to mix them well. Pour the bread and milk mix into the eggs. Stir.

4. Pour the egg/bread mix into the heated pan. Cook until brown at the edges, with lots of tiny bubbles coming up all around the outside. (Takes, um… 5 minutes?)

5. Cover the surface of the omelette with grated cheese. I grate directly onto the eggs, and stop when there’s decent-sized heap.

6. Put into the oven for 15 minutes.

7. Cut into slices and serve.

This can be served hot or cold. My teenage kids always liked having a slice in their lunch. I serve it with cucumber slices, cooked carrots, or whatever vegetables we have on hand.

Easy Tacos

This one assumes you had some kind of beans for dinner the night before. Baked beans, lentils, chick peas, it doesn’t really matter. Or you can just use a tin of beans — black beans, kidney beans, whatever. (If you’re using tinned baked beans, do make sure it’s low sodium.)

Ingredients:
soft tortilla shells
beans (leftovers!)
salad (leftovers!)
salsa (most kids prefer mild, but some love spice. Don’t assume you can’t serve spicey stuff to little ones. Give them the chance to experience it — but make sure you do it separate from a particular meal, because you don’t want them thinking they hate ALL tacos just because of the too-hot salsa!)
whatever other fillings you like

Method:
1. Put one tortilla in front of each child. (Or half of a tortilla, depending on the child and/or the size of the tortilla.)

2. Mash the beans in a bowl. Smear a couple of tablespoons of bean goop onto the middle third of each tortilla with the back of a spoon.

3. Help the children to sprinkle the tortilla with their choice of other foods: thinly sliced lettuce, cucumbers, mushrooms, tomato chunks, grated cheese, salsa, sour cream, whatever. Keep the food to the centre third of the tortilla, otherwise you’ll quickly have too much in there to make a tidy roll — the poor tykes won’t even be able to get their mouths round it! This is a recipe where the making of it is so much fun that it’s very easy to go overboard.

4. Fold up the bottom third of the tortilla, then roll from one side to the other to enclose the beans and vegetables. (The folded bottom holds the stuff in.)

Because they get to choose what goes in there, this is a great favourite. My only rule is that they must have at least one protein (I go for the beans) and one vegetable in there.

July 30, 2008 Posted by | food, memes and quizzes | , , , | 21 Comments

Speaking of holidays…

I’ve been defending a caregiver’s right to paid ones over at Work It, Mom!

July 29, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Ambivalence on legs

It’s a long, gentle slope along a quiet road above the canal that takes us to the library. The street dead ends at the library, so it’s very quiet. What with the view through the trees to the water, it’s practically idyllic.

Today, however, a roar becomes ever louder as we stroll up the hill. We round the curve and the noise fills the air. That old expression “a wall of sound” becomes reality. The roar and grind and screech is so intense, it feels as if you have to push through it. And every step only makes it louder.

Two burly “workin’ mens” in their orange vests with the reflective tape manoeuvre a large concrete saw. Lift it up, lower it carefully. It whines and roars on the way up, it screams as it moves down, cutting slices through the surface of the street.

I check the small faces. Emily, in the front of the stroller, is enthralled. Malli is mildly curious. Nigel is hopping up and down in excitement, and Timmy is … Timmy is pulling back on the stroller, trying very hard to make us reverse back the way we came. His eyes are enormous, his mouth tight, his steps drag.

“It’s very loud, isn’t it, Timmy?” I holler near his ear.
“NOISY!” he grins. The saw howls. His grin grows crooked, then trembles. “NOISY!”

He’s a study in conflicting responses. Excitement wars with terror, thrill becomes anguish, agony roils into glee.

Emma scoops him up, sets him astride her hip.

“OH! NOISY!!!” His face flickers between beaming delight and wide-eyed terror.

“He’s trembling, mom! His whole little body is shaking!”

Whether it’s shaking with excitement or panic is anyone’s guess.

“OH! NOISY! NOISY! OH! OH! NOISY!!!”

We are now close enough that the workin’ mens can hear his calls. One of them looks up. He’s not too tall but very wide, squat, burly, red-faced, lots of black hair on his ruddy arms, pants slung precariously beneath the beer belly that overhangs. He stops to wipe the sweat off his face and neck with the back of a grimy hand.

“NOISY! NOISY! OH! NOISY!”

“Ain’t that the truth, kid.” He gives Timmy a second glance, and his squint softens a bit. “You know what? I’m gonna turn this thing off for a minute. Maybe this is too exciting for some of you, huh?” Kindness … it comes wrapped in all sorts of packages.

We head up the hill in blissful peace.

“NOISY! NOISY! NOISY! OH! OH!! OH, NOISY!”

Though it seems not all of us have quite registered the difference…

July 28, 2008 Posted by | outings, Timmy | , , | 10 Comments

Don’t argue with his reality

Ray the Contractor heads up the stairs with a largish piece of wood. Ray and his team rescued us last summer. This summer Ray’s back on this own to do a small bit of custom carpentry for us.

“Why does he have that wood?”
I explain.
Ray heads down and out the door.
“Why did he leave?”
“Perhaps he needs something else from his truck.”
Ray returns with a drill in each hand.
“Why does he got those drills?”
I hazard a guess that he might be doing some drilling.
“Why does he got a measurer?”
“You always need to measure when you’re building things.” Even hammer-impaired me knows the “measure twice, cut once” truism. Besides, it doesn’t end with carpentry. I may not often have used it on wood, but I’ve certainly used it on fabric.

Nigel’s face registers his doubt. “Wally and Fred don’t have a measurer.”

Wally and Fred have been a repeating theme in Nigel’s conversations for months now, ever since he and his family moved into a rented house (“our fresh house”) so that Wally and Fred could build an addition onto his old house.

Wally and Fred are the Gold Standard of contractors. All things construction are measured against the virtuosity of Wally and Fred. Ray, it is clear, falls far short of the mark.

“I’m sure Wally and Fred have tape measures, love. You can’t be a builder without one.” It’s a requirement. That fellow claiming he can give you a new bathroom for $2,000? Check for the tape measure on his belt. You don’t see one, he’s a fraud.

“No, they don’t. Wally and Fred don’t have any measurers.”

“You sure about that?”

“Uh-huh!”

Gee. Think I can manoeuvre an invitation to the Grand Unveiling? It should be a sight to see…

July 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The circumstantial evidence was powerful

We’ve been trying Timmy with the potty again. Tried for a while earlier, decided it wasn’t taking … well, in honesty, I got tired of wiping up puddles. Puddles because, for all his eager willingness, it wasn’t taking.

And now, it’s time, I think. Because, goodness, has it been SIX MONTHS already? My, how time flies.

I know he’s ready, because if he’s bare from bellybutton down, he stays dry. 100%. Okay, with no clothes there he can’t very well get wet, so Timmy stays dry, and even better, my hardwood stays dry! No puddles. No idea about the solids yet; he tends to have those at home. But as far as the puddles? The boy knows what’s going on.

As long as he is bare. Which is a problem.

It is a problem in public, obviously. I won’t be taking him to the park, on the bus, to a museum, with his little butt butt-naked.

It’s a problem at home, though, too, because Timmy will NOT leave the boys alone. Yes, he’s two. All two-year-old boys play with themselves when it’s available. I’ve seen enough two-year-old boys to have full awareness of the joy they take in that thing.

But no one loves it like Timmy loves it. As long as there’s no diaper, his entire day is one long love-fest. It’s rolled and stretched and folded and twisted (doesn’t that hurt??) All.Day.Long.

There is no distracting him. It’s disconcerting, it’s distracting, and, given that the only time he lets go of the damned thing is to touch another child’s face or play with (communal) toys, it borders on downright disgusting.

I am tempted to bark at him, as an aunt once did to a now-grown cousin, “If you don’t stop playing with that thing, it’ll Fall.Right.OFF!”

Oh, I am tempted. But I won’t. Even though, last I heard, the cousin was perfect normal. Entirely unscarred … except, perhaps, by repeated retellings of that oh-so-funny family tale.

So what I tried today was to take the diaper off, and leave him in his shorts. In his shorts with solemn warning. “You have nothing on under there. If you pee, you will be VERY wet. You need to pee in the potty, just like you did yesterday.”

He nods. “Okay.”

Yeah. Well, we’ll see.

“And Timmy? Stay off the couch. Today, you will play on the floor. No couch, okay?”

“Okay.”

And in fact, he does just fine! One pee, two pees. The boy seems to be getting it. Three pees. Yes!

And then, “Mary, I’m all wet.”

And he is. He’s soaked. How could a small boy possibly produce so much pee? A wide stripe down the front, a puddle on the floor — and wet footprints all over the living room floor. Ugh. And a wet spot on the COUCH. Double ugh. With some exasperation I instruct the boy to remove the wet shorts and go sit on the potty.

Closing the stable door after the horse has gone, I know, but we’re trying to create a connection. Pee = potty; potty = pee. I thought we had made it pretty successfully, all morning, but just LOOK at this floor.

The size of this puddle is astounding. I swab diligently with one handful of paper towels after another. Which causes eco-friendly me, with her neat basket of re-usable cloths (aka rags) under the kitchen sink, some pangs of conscience, but this is a LOT of pee. A LOT. It’s not just this one puddle, either, enormous as it is … good heavens, there’s another!

The sound of copious peeing — in the potty — reaches my ears even as I reach for another paper towel and wipe up another puddle.

Waaaiiiit a minute.

Soaking pants. Wet footprints all over the living room. Enormous puddle in living room, a second, smaller one beside it … I scan the house… ANOTHER one in the hall…

And the boy is peeing in the potty?

I take a careful sniff of the saturated towels in my hand. Nothing.

The trail of droplets leads me to the dining room, where my husband’s water bottle lies on its side on the floor. My husband’s 500 mL bottle. His empty bottle.

Who knew two cups of water could go so very far?

And Timmy? Guess I owe the boy an apology …

July 23, 2008 Posted by | potty tales, Timmy | , , | 5 Comments

Babytalk, part two

Yesterday’s post, and particularly Z’s comment, got me to thinking with great fondness of long-gone turns of phrase in my children’s lives.

At the age of three, Haley had the most lyrical imagination. I wish that I’d thought to write her creative phrases and delicious adjectives down at the time, because I know that hundreds have been lost forever. (Can you hear my heartfelt sigh?) Two stay with me.

Upon encountering a lawn sprinkler for the first time, the sort that is a plastic doughnut that sits on the grass and sends out a sort of half-torus of radiating arcs of water, she exclaimed,

“Look, mummy! It’s a droopy-up!”

Isn’t that just so sweeeet?

We were driving home after dark one winter evening. She must have been outside after dark before. Even sleep-hardass Mary wouldn’t have had her children in bed by four p.m., which is when it gets dark in January in these parts, but for whatever reason, she noticed the streetlights for the first time.

“Oooooh.” Her voice was awestruck. “Mummy! See the crystal trees?”

When Adam was just shy of two, we lived a few blocks from a fire station. Imagine the excitement when a firetruck burst onto the street, the deep blast of the horn, the shrill call of the siren. Imagine a little boy in footed pajamas, standing up in his crib and pointing at the window, bouncing to the noise, and calling out,

“Vider-fucks! Vider-fucks!”

There was also “own-der-eye-gle”, which was almost as exciting. Too bad those things don’t have sirens.

Emma, for reasons known only to herself, called socks “gookums” for a solid year. (No, of course I didn’t correct her. She was my third. By now I’d learned how fleeting and precious these things are; I’d also learned that she’d get this sort of thing right without my help…)

Gookums. It’s still a puzzlement!

She was also the one who called her paternal grandparents “Gamma and Gamma”, which was cute right there, but even funnier was her indignation when the WRONG “Gamma” answered.

“Not you, Gamma! GAMMA!” Well, that clears it right up.

It’s probably just as well we didn’t know which was which, because she played favourites. “Gamma is NICER than Gamma.” Okay, then. (And you know, to this day I have no idea which Gamma was the “nicer” one. They were both pretty-near perfect grandparents, far as I could make out.)

Okay. Those are some of my fond remembrances. Thank you to Haley for giving me a couple of these! Note to all you young mothers out there: WRITE THESE THINGS DOWN! You think you could never possibly forget — but you will. And it will cause you deep regret, and many a wistful sigh.

So. Let’s write some of them down, right now! What are your children’s cute sayings, mispronounciations, malapropisms … How do your kids mangle the language in a totally ADORABLE way? Tell us in the comments.

Share, share, share!

July 22, 2008 Posted by | the things they say! | , , , | 38 Comments

Babytalk

Mother and son sit on my front hall floor, engrossed in the business of putting on his shoes, curly blond head nestled against graying blond head. It’s a cute tableau, and I smile even as I look down on inch-long gray roots. Time for a touch-up, mom.

“Push little foot!” Mommy’s voice is sing-song and cheerful. My smile becomes a teeny bit fixed. I am not a huge fan of babytalk, but they’ll be gone soon. I can gag in private in a few minutes.

The child grunts a bit, but makes no discernable pushing motion of his foot into his shoe. Mom’s being had here. This child can put his own shoes on. Takes him two minutes, tops. Oddly, I know mom knows this. Some days she has him do it. But today is a gooey day.

“Push! Push little foot!”
More push-less grunting.
“No? Can’t? Okay, I will help little boy. Oh, look! Little shoe!” She’s so happy.
Mommy slides the shoe on.
“There! All done! Shoe on little foot!”

He hops off her lap, and, happy child that he is, hops around the front hall. Bounce, bounce, bounce.
The mother smiles. “Oh, happy boi-oy!”

He laughs. He is a happy boy. He is also three years old. It has been close to a year and a half since he’s spoken the way his mother has been speaking to him for the past five minutes. Interestingly, this normally chatterbox boy hasn’t yet spoken a word in response. Perhaps he doesn’t understand Baby?

“Okay, now. Say ‘bye-bye’ to Wee-wee.”

Ugh.

“Wee-wee?” It’s been close to two years since he’s used that annoying diminuitive of my name. It lasted about three weeks. I mean, does anyone really want their nick-name to be a bodily fluid? I haven’t heard it in two years (less three weeks). I had no idea it was ongoing at home. It’s a bit of a start to hear it at all, much less from the lips of someone pretty nearly my age. Isn’t forty-mrhph old enough to know better?

Thank goodness this verbal retrogression is only an occasional thing. On a daily basis, it would leave my fingers itching for a muzzle. Or the ever-handy duct tape. The return to ooey-gooey babytalk always has me scratching my head. Once you’ve left it behind, why go back? What need of her is it filling? What mood does it express? Or is she just privately assured that there too little Inane in the world?

“Wee-wee.” Yeesh.

July 21, 2008 Posted by | parents, quirks and quirkiness, the dark side | | 10 Comments

Not at home

I’m not here today because I’m over here, writing about daycare drop-offs…

July 17, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Where can I get one of these?

I think the answer is “Taiwan”. Ooops! Wrong! It’s “Japan”!

Here we have group daycare, Japanese-style, sent to me courtesy of a friend (and loyal lurker) from Singapore. (Thanks, Mike!)

It has no belts nor brakes, that I can see. But, meh. How fast do you go with one of these things, anyway? The sides are easily high enough you’d have lots of notice if one of the crew were trying to make a break for it.

And look at it! It fits a minimum of four children, has great suspension, a grab-bar for a couple more to trundle along, and a lovely roomy storage bin. The kids can move around in there, getting a 360 view of the world around them. With fewer than four children, there’d be room for toys in there, room to have a picnic, and afterward? Toss in a blanket, and they can nap in capacious comfort.

AND it comes filled with little Asian babies, which, everyone knows, are mind-bogglingly cute! What more could you ask for?

Though, on second thoughts, I’d take mine without the tots. I have plenty here…

July 15, 2008 Posted by | random and odd | 17 Comments

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